Officers pulled over a minivan Tuesday afternoon at Mayberry Mall in Mount Airy which was discovered to contain a pipe bomb.
The stop occurred about 3:05 p.m., for what was first thought to be a routine traffic violation by the driver of the vehicle, but which turned out to be much more after a search of the Dodge Caravan.
The finding of the pipe bomb led to authorities establishing a perimeter around the vehicle near the front entrance to the shopping center. A large group of city and county officers, along with members of the Mount Airy Fire Department and others, were monitoring the minivan around 4:30 p.m. while awaiting the arrival of a bomb technician from the State Bureau of Investigation.
The pipe bomb remained in the vehicle during that time. The explosive device appeared to be a cylindrical object about eight inches long with a fuse clearly sticking out of its top.
Glenn Springthorpe, 33, of Maple Drive, Mount Airy, subsequently was charged with felonious possession of a weapon of mass destruction; possession of methamphetamine with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver, also a felony; carrying a concealed weapon; and possession of drug paraphernalia.
No explanation was readily offered by Springthorpe for the presence of the bomb, a police official said.
Tuesday afternoon’s incident did not require Mayberry Mall or roads in front of the center to be closed.
“We just set a tight perimeter around the vehicle itself,” Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson explained.
Meanwhile, mall shoppers on the grounds eyed the scene curiously from other areas of the parking lot.
The traffic stop of the van resulted from what Capt. Barry VanHoy of the city police described as an traffic “interdiction” effort involving city and county officers.
“They might find drugs,” VanHoy said of the goals of such operations. “They might anything,” which in this case was a pipe bomb.
An unidentified female was driving the minivan, who later was spotted being frisked behind a law enforcement vehicle parked near the Dodge Caravan. The only other occupant of the van was a male passenger, later identified as Springthorpe.
The discovery of the pipe bomb did not readily occur after the minivan was pulled over, according to VanHoy.
“They did not volunteer it,” he said of the vehicle’s occupants regarding the presence of that contraband, which was found by officers with the assistance of a four-legged friend. “They got probable cause to search it through a K-9 indication.”
Once the dog detected the presence of an explosive, the pipe bomb was located in a backpack in the front-passenger side of the vehicle.
The female involved was not charged with any violations due to the items found being in the possession of Springthorpe, VanHoy said.