Police: Man who left hoax device at Trussville school wanted to - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL


Police: Man who left hoax device at Trussville school wanted to shoot police, rob a bank

(L-R) Zachary Edwards and Raphel Dilligard. Source: Trussville Police Department (L-R) Zachary Edwards and Raphel Dilligard. Source: Trussville Police Department
Magnolia Elementary School in Trussville. Source: Vincent Parker/WBRC Magnolia Elementary School in Trussville. Source: Vincent Parker/WBRC

Authorities say a man who left a suspicious device designed to look like a bomb at a Trussville elementary school confessed he wanted to use it as a decoy to shoot police officers and rob a bank.

On Wednesday, Trussville police announced the arrest of two people in connection to the explosive device found at Magnolia Elementary School in Trussville on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

Zachary Edwards, 35, and Raphel Dilligard, 34, are both charged with possession of a hoax destructive device, rendering false alarm and terrorist threats, Captain Jeff Bridges said. Both suspects are from Birmingham. 

Edwards has a $600,000 bond and has been transported to the Jefferson County Jail.

Dilligard has a $10,000 bond and is still being held at the Trussville City Jail, but will likely be transported to the Jefferson County Jail later on Wednesday.

The suspects were arrested at their residence and booked into the Trussville City Jail late Tuesday night, according to police. 

Police say both suspects admitted to their wrongdoing. Edwards' bond is greater because he has a more extensive record than Dilligard, Bridges said. He did not have information readily available about Edwards' criminal record.

Captain Bridges said Edwards confessed that he planted the device because he wanted to get police in one location to either shoot them or rob a bank.

While being interviewed, he reportedly told police that he had some associates and more plans for the future. Bridges said they are continuing to investigate if anyone else was involved. 

Edwards also claims to be a member of the Black Panthers and Black Mafia, according to Bridges. Police have not yet confirmed if he has any connection to either group.

The device was discovered on the hood of a cafeteria worker's pickup truck after someone called to say, "I know what a bomb looks like, it's in the parking lot," ATF Special Agent in Charge David Hyche said previously.

Hyche added today that they believe the suspect made the 911 call about the bomb and disguised his voice to sound like a female.

After the device was found, Trussville police officers responded to the hill behind the school and the surrounding areas.

Thinking the device could be a diversion for another crime, the police department sent other officers to banks, jewelry stores and other potential targets, Bridges said.

Edwards told investigators that he went to a bank with the intention to rob it, but changed his mind when he saw a police car in the parking lot.

The female suspect is accused of buying the components for the device. She was captured on surveillance video purchasing some of the items from a Walmart in Irondale, police said. 

The suspicious package, which was a hoax, contained a digital timer and wires with Play-Doh and gunpowder inside. Bridges said the package was made to look like a bomb, but it was missing whatever was needed to cause a detonation.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Hyche said the School Resource Officer who first saw the device noticed it looked like a real bomb, and they responded appropriately.

Hyche said they believe the suspects intentionally made the device to look like a bomb, though it could not have gone off. He said the children at the school were never in danger, but they treated the case "like this was a school with our kids."

He added that the device "disturbed us from the start."

Hyche said the device did not contain a large amount of explosives, but when they first saw what they had, they knew it was something they needed to take seriously.

Hyche said agents disarmed the device by shooting it with a shotgun shell full of water, meant to render the device useless. That controlled explosion happened in a wooded area on the side of the school.

Hyche said in his 28 years of investigating hoax devices at schools, the response to the Trussville incident by local, state and federal agencies was one of the most well-orchestrated and rapid responses. 

"This was a difficult investigation that was forensic in nature, for it to be cleared this fast is remarkable," Hyche said. 

Hyche said they are looking at federal charges against the suspects. 

Trussville Police Department, ATF and Metro Area Crime Center investigators worked together to make the arrests.

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