SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A 47-year-old Utah man accused of wanting to kill police officers and blow up a police department kept detailed logs of law enforcement activity, the Tremonton police chief said Monday.
Tremonton Police Chief David Nance told The Associated Press that during an unrelated search of John Huggins’ trailer home in March 2013, officers found five spiral notebooks detailing police activities and officer call signs from radio traffic.
That went above and beyond the activities of hobbyists who monitor police scanners and “kind of piqued our attention,” Nance said.
Although Huggins was on their radar, police didn’t start monitoring him closely until February of this year after a “concerned citizen” reported Huggins was threatening to bomb the police department.
The FBI and Tremonton police arrested Huggins Thursday on a charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device. He’s being held in the Weber County Jail until a detention hearing Tuesday afternoon. It was not clear Monday whether he had an attorney.
Huggins could face additional charges after the case is presented to a grand jury, U.S. Attorney’s Office of Utah spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch said. If convicted on the unregistered device charge, Huggins could face 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The homemade grenade-like device found in Huggins’ trailer last week was constructed from an energy-drink bottle and surrounded by homemade shrapnel, according to court records. The device was found among along with explosive chemicals inside the trailer at a RV park in Tremonton, investigators said.
“It was a legitimate device that could have very easily been made to cause some significant damage and injury to people,” Nance said.
In addition to threatening to blow up the police department, the citizen reported Huggins wanted to assassinate officers and blow up bridges to prevent emergency responders from being able to help, FBI Special Agent Steven Cadiz said in court documents.
Huggins stated he believed the attacks would cause the community to rise up against the government, Cadiz said.
Investigators have not said how far Huggins was from carrying out such a plot.
He had schematics for explosive devices and videos of explosions, including videos of Huggins apparently blowing up a vehicle, according to court records.
During a meeting Thursday at a Tremonton restaurant, Huggins offered to build and sell explosive devices and bomb-making material to a confidential police informant and an undercover FBI agent, investigators said.
Huggins was arrested soon after, authorities said.
“We took the threat seriously just because of prior incidents when he’s had incendiary devices,” Nance said. “So we knew he had the knowledge to do what he was threatening.”
In 2007, a police task force discovered a homemade pipe bomb while arresting Huggins on drug violations. Huggins pleaded guilty three misdemeanor charges of drug possession, illegally possessing a handgun and recklessness with an incendiary device.
In 2001 and 2002, Huggins was convicted of assault charges and discharging a firearm toward a building.
In addition, Huggins also faces three drug-related charges from March 2013. A trial is scheduled for September in that case.
His ex-wife told the Deseret News (http://bit.ly/1wmQynM) that Huggins had a longtime fascination with explosives.
“He’s always been this way. It’s been his personality to talk about explosives. He’s always been fascinated with them,” Michelle Huggins said.
They divorced in 2002 and have three children, she said.
Her ex-husband was an engineering technician and served in the National Guard, Michelle Huggins said.
“He loved being in the Army, and when he was out of that, he still played it all the time,” she said. “He would dress up in Army (clothes) and go practice. We lived out in the country, and he would just go be an Army boy in the afternoons. He was a survivalist.”