Johnson City, TN (WJHL) – A man arrested Sunday on a federal charge for possessing a pipe bomb was found a short distance away from where a bomb exploded in a Johnson City prosthetics business.
WJHL News Channel 11’s Allie Hinds said U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearems, and Explosives (ATF) agents found the remnants of an explosive device at Victory Orthotics & Prosthetics on Knob Creek Road, after police and fire personnel were called to the business around 10 p.m. Sunday. Police were there to investigate a report of an explosion and fire.
Zachary Smith, the co-owner of Victory Orthotics and Prosthetics, spoke to News Channel 11 Monday and said he believes he knows the person responsible for the incident.
“I’m concerned for this individual. I’m flabbergasted. I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed at times,” Smith said. “I don’t know how somebody could stoop to this level. I’m just thankful that nobody was hurt.”
According to police, witnesses said a green van was seen leaving from behind the building just before the explosion, and said it was traveling south on Knob Creek Road.
The van was stopped a short time later on State of Franklin Road between Knob Creek Road and Greenline Road, by a JCPD officer.
The suspect was apprehended and is now in federal custody. The suspect’s vehicle was searched and determined to be safe by the Johnson City Explosives Ordnance Disposal Unit.
JCPD, JCFD Fire Marshal, State Fire Marshal’s Office, the FBI and ATF were all involved in the investigation.
The investigation, now turned over to ATF, is ongoing.
A federal court document filed Monday morning confirms that ATF agents searched a vehicle that was pulled over on North State of Franklin Road by Johnson City police and found what was described as a pipe bomb.
The only person in the vehicle was Christopher Wayne Alexander, according to the court documents. ATF agent Bryan Williams said in the document that Alexander “knowingly possessed a firearm, that is a pipe bomb, not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.”
As for the incident at Victory, ATF Special Agent and Public Information Officer Michael Knight from Nashville said the investigative team will initially rule out any accidental causes of the incident there and then will move more toward a criminal aspect of a possible intentionally set fire or explosive.
“This appears to be an isolated case at this time,” Knight said. “This collaborative effort among the law enforcement and fire service is asking the public for any information to include photos/videos regarding this incident.”
According to a JCPD news release, ATF agents will be charging the suspect.
The scene on Knob Creek was cleared around 6 a.m. Monday.
Alexander was scheduled for a detention hearing in federal court in Greeneville on Wednesday afternoon. His preliminary hearing on the firearm possession charge was set for July 15.
Keep checking WJHL.com for updates as more information becomes available.