Firefighter Cleared of Pipe Bomb Charges
Boston Globe via YellowBrix
September 10, 2010
BOSTON – Prosecutors this week dropped a reckless-conduct charge against a Salisbury man after what the police initially described as a powerful pipe bomb at his home turned out to be a “tire thumper” used to check the pressure of truck tires, his lawyer said.
The misdemeanor charge against Walter Scott Jr., formerly a volunteer fireman, was dropped Tuesday, the day the 59-year-old was scheduled for trial in Franklin District Court.
The item found at Scott’s home at 445 Old Turnpike Road on March 16 “was not a bomb, not a ‘device,’ could not have harmed anyone unless they were hit over the head with it,” Scott’s attorney, Ted Barnes, wrote in an e-mail.
Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Alexander Gatzoulis, the prosecutor in the case, confirmed yesterday that the charge was dropped but declined to explain why, except that new information came to light.
Salisbury police Chief Frank Jones brought the reckless conduct charge against Scott, writing in a criminal complaint dated May 7 that Scott “did possess a device recognized to be consistent with a pipe-bomb . . . in his driveway, thereby placing himself” and others in the area “in danger of serious bodily injury.”
Jones told the Monitor later that month that the device was a powerful bomb and was complete except for a fuse.
“This could have potentially destroyed a home, easily,” Jones said.
But according to a portion of a state police report, dated June 11 and accompanying a later court filing by Barnes, the device was a PVC pipe, about two-and-a-half feet long, with metal weights inside.
While “appearing to be a pipe bomb,” the report said, it contained “no powder or explosive or fuse.”
“What else is there in a bomb?” Barnes said.
Jones didn’t return a message left yesterday at the police station seeking comment.
Gatzoulis declined to discuss specifics of the case.
“I’m not going against the chief. I’m not confirming or denying it was a bomb. . . . At the time, Chief Jones was working with what he had to work with, and he went forward with the proper course of action,” Gatzoulis said. “But sometimes, new information comes up after the initial date of investigation.”
Based on such new information, he said, “We just decided that this would be the best way to go forward.”
Scott had found the pipe and brought it home, Barnes said.
“He’s a bit of a scavenger,” Barnes said. “Or was. He doesn’t do it anymore.”
The pipe had end caps, and when Scott looked inside, he saw insulation. Concerned, and unsure if it could be a pipe bomb, he called Jones, Barnes said.
Officers from Salisbury, Andover, Boscawen and the state police responded. The state police bomb squad destroyed the pipe with a water cannon at the scene, Barnes said.
“This was not a device of any description,” Barnes said. “It’s just something to bang on a tire with.”
Scott, a longtime volunteer firefighter, was relieved of duty “pending the outcome of this whole issue,” said Ken Ross-Raymond, chairman of the Salisbury selectmen. Ross-Raymond said, to the best of his knowledge, Scott hasn’t been reinstated.
Scott didn’t return a message seeking comment, nor did Rick Gilman, the town fire chief.
Ross-Raymond said he didn’t know if the board of selectmen would discuss the case.
“We’re not law-enforcement people, so I don’t know,” he said. “We are supervisors, but I don’t know what right we have to question his judgment, things of that nature.”
Barnes said he didn’t know if Scott will sue the town.
“I know that what he wants is an apology, at the very least,” Barnes said.