The FBI has released disturbing new details about a convicted South Carolina serial bomber and alleged terrorist sympathizer.
Wesley Dallas Ayers, 26, was sentenced in federal court earlier this year to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in October 2018 to weapons of mass destruction and firearm charges, according to a press release from the bureau.
On Monday, the FBI shared more information about Ayers’ crimes, which included a photo of a teddy bear that officials say the suspect equipped with a nail-loaded pipe bomb in order to prey on children.
The device was spotted on February 15, 2018, in the middle of a rural highway in Anderson County, S.C., by a concerned motorist who called police to report the suspicious device. Bomb technicians disabled the weapon at the scene and no one was injured.
“This was deliberately placed where a child or passerby could have found it,” saidSpecial Agent Christopher Derrickson, a supervisor in the FBI Columbia Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). “Fortunately, someone saw it and knew to call us.”
The discovery came weeks after a man traveling with his daughter on the same rural highway was injured by a homemade bomb after stopping to examine a wicker basket left in the middle of the road. The father sustained minor leg burns in the incident. Authorities said evidence “clearly” linked the two bombs together.
In all, the FBI says Ayers planted six total devices between January 24 and February 24, 2018 — three hoaxes and three real bombs, the last of which was found on a road inside a wooden box covered with Arabic writing. It was also defused before anyone was injured.
A man in the area eventually came forward to tell police he had spoken to another man who claimed he knew someone who had been building bombs in his home.
The JTTF quickly closed in on Ayers, who lived close to the site of the bombings, and obtained a search warrant for the home he shared with his girlfriend. Inside, investigators found identical bomb components to the ones used in the devices and exact copies of the writings that had been found at the scenes.
Two guns and a type of vest known to be used by suicide bombers were also discovered in the home.
Ayers’ computer history revealed he had become radicalized by consuming terrorist propaganda from Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden and others, according to the FBI.
The suspect allegedly had a history of methamphetamine use and had previously used a bat wrapped in barbed wire to beat his girlfriend’s cat to death, WYFF reports.
Bomb experts with the bureau said the investigation to locate the suspect was a “race against time,” as the devices were becoming more and more sophisticated each time.
“We knew based on all the evidence that he was not done deploying these devices,” Derrickson said. “If he had not been caught, there would have been more.”