NYSP: Explosive Materials Could've Been 'Catastrophic' for Horseheads
HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WENY) -- New York State Police held a press conference on the morning of Thursday, November 16th, about the suspected bomb maker from Horseheads. Authorities said they found a myriad of bomb-making equipment, volatile explosive materials, and unknown chemicals inside Michael Hilliard's home on South Main Street.
"Without the meticulous removal of hazardous materials specialists these chemicals when interacting with one another in the presence of explosive devices and other substances, would've been catastrophic for the downtown area of Horseheads," said NYSP Troop E Commander Major, Miklos Szoczei II.
Authorities said they found several kinds of explosives along with homemade blasting caps. They said hazardous chemicals including strong bases, strong acids, and water-reactive chemicals were remediated and removed.
"After the search of the residence where they found explosive materials and bomb-making materials, we are now awaiting laboratory analysis of all those substances, as well as reviewing handwritten notes and digital data," said Chemung County Assistant District Attorney, Susan Rider-Ulacco.
On November 5th, police said they received reports of explosions in the Town of Veteran. When authorities searched the area, they weren't able to find anything.
Then on November 6th, State Police said the investigation into Hilliard began when they recovered a remote-controlled improvised explosive device in the Town of Veteran. Police also said the remote-controlled device could've been used from about 6,000 feet away. Police also said after taking investigative steps, including subpoenas, search warrants, and personal interviews, Hilliard was identified as a suspect.
According to authorities, on Saturday, November 11th, State Police conducted a surveillance of Hilliard. He was seen leaving his residence with several items and entered a small U-Haul box van.
"Hilliard was observed traveling north on State Route 13 in the Town of Newfield, and out of concern for public safety, he was stopped and apprehended. A search warrant was conducted on the U-Haul, revealing no immediate threat to public safety," said Maj. Szoczei II.
Maj. Szoczei II said nothing was found in the U-Haul and that police believe Hilliard was using the U-Haul as a means of transportation. He added it's believed that Hilliard was on a personal trip.
On Sunday, November 12th, the Bomb Disposal Unit, the Forensic Identification Unit, the Emergency Management Team, the Contaminated Crime Scene Emergency Response Team, the Unmanned Aerial System Team, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and uniformed members from Horseheads Police Department made a warranted search of the residence where they found some chemicals which are known to be particularly volatile if not kept in a temperature-controlled environment.
"Due to the quantities (of hazardous materials) involved and the threat to public safety, it was necessary to evacuate the surrounding businesses and residences while members of the FBI responded from Huntsville, Alabama, and Quantico, Virginia," said Maj. Szoczei II.
According to State Police, on November 13th, Horseheads Police Department, troopers, the FBI, and all specialty units within the agencies worked together to remediate the scene. The sidewalk and South Main Street fully reopened on Tuesday, November 14th at 5 p.m.
Authorities believe at this time, Hilliard was acting alone. Police are reaching out to Hilliard's friends and coworkers to try to gather more information. Police are also trying to figure out Hilliard's background and how he got some of the materials, and what his goal was.
Hilliard was charged with first-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The Chemung County District Attorney's Office is working with federal prosecutors on possible additional charges.
You can watch the full press conference below.