Gainesville man charged with possessing explosive device


Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 7:55 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.

The Gainesville Police Department, with the help of other agencies, collected an Improvised Explosive Device, or IED, in Gainesville Tuesday afternoon and arrested the man who built it, who said it was a “homemade firework” he was afraid to detonate.

Mason Scott Beuning, 18, of Gainesville, who constructed the device, was arrested along with another man -- Wolfe O’Meara, also 18 and of Gainesville -- after they were detained by Walmart personnel Tuesday morning for shoplifting BBs, flare guns and other materials that could be used to make an explosive device.

GPD officers went to the Walmart Supercenter at 1800 NE 12th Ave. at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday after the pair were caught shoplifting, according to a news release. Beuning told investigators he had a self-manufactured explosive device at his home at 3119 NW 4th St. in Gainesville.

Beuning was charged with possessing a destructive device, which is a third-degree felony, and misdemeanor shoplifting, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias. O’Meara was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting and possession of drug paraphernalia. Both were arrested and taken to the Alachua County jail.

GPD investigators, along with personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and members of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Disposal Team went to his home, according to the news release. They found a cardboard tube with black powder inside that was sealed at both ends and included a fuse. The bomb team members confirmed it contained explosive powder and safely collected it for additional analysis.

Beuning told investigators he had built the device as a “homemade firework” but was scared to detonate it. Tobias said Beuning alone has been charged with possessing a destructive device because investigators determined he made it and because it was at his house.

GPD is investigating O’Meara’s role in the situation further.

It’s possible that Beuning didn’t realize the consequences of building this so-called homemade firework, Tobias said.

“But then you put in the fact that they were shoplifting BBs, which in the past have been used as shrapnel in explosive devices,” he said. “You know, we want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but at the same time he’s shoplifting something that could make that device more dangerous.”

GPD will continue its investigation and will be speaking to many people who know Beuning to learn more about him and his intentions.

“Definitely in light of the Boston bombing, we are not taking any chances with anything that’s directly related to explosives,” he said.

If investigators determine Beuning was making a bomb rather than a homemade firework, it could lead to federal-level charges, Tobias said. He has only been charged at the state level for now. If police determine O’Meara was involved as well, he could also face tougher charges.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gainesville.com.

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