Their plan was to plant a fake explosive device near a Trussville, Alabama elementary school, and when all the police and first responders came together in one place, they were going to shoot as many of them as possible. They also talked of starting a race war.
Thirty-five-year-old Zachary Edwards already had an extensive criminal record. And now, he and his associate 34-year-old Raphel Dilligard – both of whom are from Birmingham – are being charged with “possession of a hoax destructive device, rendering false alarm and making terrorist threats.”
If their plan had worked, they would have gotten a lot of law enforcement personnel in one place. The one-week investigation spanned several local, state, and federal agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), the Trussville Police Department, the Jefferson County Police Department, the state Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Lawmen responded en masse to Magnolia Elementary School on Wednesday, Nov. 16, after they received a 911 from a woman who reported seeing a Hispanic male place the package on a pickup truck that belonged to a school cafeteria worker. The package was a box with wires and timer attached. AL.com reported:
“When we first saw what we had, we knew this was something to take serious and we put on the full-court press. It disturbed us from the start,” Hyche [of the ATF] said. “I’ve never seen such a well-orchestrated and rapid response.”
Hyche today said the children and staff weren’t in any danger from the device, and even if it had been in working condition, it was on the far side of the school where there was no glass.
The first break in the case came when investigators were able to trace that 911 to a cell phone that had once been owned by Edwards, said Hyche and Bridges. The 911 call was actually placed by Edwards, who disguised his voice to try to sound like a woman.
Once brought in for questioning, both gave confessions. Edwards admitted to planting the device, and said his plan was to get all police officers and first responders in one place so he could shoot them. “I guess he doesn’t like cops,” [Trussville Police Capt. Jeff] Bridges said.
Edwards also talked of using the incident as a diversion so he could commit crimes elsewhere – such as robbing a bank – while the police were tied up at the elementary school, but backed out of that plan.
“Probably because of the overwhelming response to the area,” Hyche said. “He wanted everybody in one place so he could kill cops. He made it clear to our guys he wanted to commit acts of violence. This arrest probably did stop something bad from happening.”
He discussed starting a race war, but authorities didn’t elaborate on what he said.
While the bomb that was planted did contain gun powder and was “painstakingly put together,” police noted that it wouldn’t have been able to be detonated.