Students face explosives charges
Williamstown Police officials are not identifying the three suspects because they have not yet been formally charged, although charges of possession of an infernal machine, a felony, and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, are expected to be filed against the trio by Monday, said Detective Sgt. Scott McGowan.
"Without a doubt, at no time was any student, anyone associated with the college, or any town resident in danger," he said. "All evidence points to a prank, not domestic terrorism."
McGowan said all three suspects have been cooperating throughout the investigation.
"Our evidence shows they were trying to pull a prank without giving any thought to what the consequences could be," he said. "I don't believe they understood the overall danger, not having been trained to handle these materials. I do believe they are very well aware of just how serious the situation could have been now."
McGowan described the device as a "powerful explosive." He declined to reveal the nature of the device or of where the students learned how to assemble it. He did say they purchased the materials at a local store, which enabled investigators to identify one of the suspects, with the assistance of the FBI. Through further investigation of the first suspect, police identified the other two.
McGowan said campus security notified police of a suspicious device at the field at about 12:52 a.m. Sunday. Police and campus security approached the device, quickly determined it was not a danger, and police brought it to the station for further examination.
A press statement from Williamstown Police Chief Kyle J. Johnson noted that the device "had been ignited, but failed to burn."
The statement also said that the "intent was not to cause damage, but to pursue their curiosity about such a device."
McGowan noted that if the device had detonated, there were no buildings or other college structures close enough to have been damaged.
The possession of an infernal machine charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in state prison. The misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. There is no minimum penalty limit for either charge, McGowan said.
James Kolesar, spokesman for Williams College, said that school officials are investigating the incident, and that any possible sanctions of the students would remain confidential. Sanctions could range from a verbal warning to expulsion. He also noted that a 19-year-old student is typically a freshman.
There are about 2,000 students enrolled at Williams College, which employs about 1,000 faculty and staff, he said. About 1,900 of the students are housed in about 30 residential dormitories on the 450-acre campus. There are roughly 100 buildings on campus.
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