10 bombs seized in raid of militia

The Associated Press/May, 1996

ROBERTA, Ga., - Two leaders of a small militia group were arrested Friday and 10 bombs were confiscated in raids on their homes after an informer said they planned to build and distribute pipe bombs.

Early reports said the bombs were to be set off during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, but a top federal law-enforcement official said there was no indication of any connection to the Olympics.

The Georgia Republic Militia group, which law officials said has 11 to 15 members, apparently wanted to hold the bombs at their homes in case of government invasion, according to a federal affidavit.

Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCarnie Jr., both of Roberta, were charged with conspiracy to possess unregistered explosive devices.

Starr was arrested at his home, and McCarnie was arrested in Americus, where he was working Friday. Both were held at a county jail pending a hearing Monday, Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern said.

In Macon, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms displayed 10 pipe bombs they said were found in the raid. Nine of them were made from 1-inch-diameter metal pipe with caps screwed onto each end. The 10th was about 3 ½ feet long and 4 inches in diameter. It was wrapped in mud-stained plastic and apparently had been buried, agents said.

The agents also showed explosive powder, pre-cut pipe and other bomb-making materials they said were recovered in the raid.

Roberta is 74 miles south of Atlanta, where most of the Olympic games are to be held.

Stern said the government is making "No allegation that they intended to explode any devices at the Olympics."

"The Olympics only came up once during the investigation when at one of their meetings, one member said if a bomb goes off at the Olympics, they would get blamed for it," he said.

CBS, which broke the story, was standing by its report that federal agents had uncovered a plot by a militia group to set off bombs at Olympic sites prior to the games.

Several sources initially confirmed an Olympic connection to the AP, but a top-ranking law-enforcement official subsequently denied it.

"Whether the Games were the target or not, it's better to have something connected with a bombing plot to be found out beforehand," said Scott Mall, a spokesman for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

McCarnie, 30, is a plumber who works in Macon. Starr, 34, is a self-employed electrician whose company filed for bankruptcy in June 1995, according to court records.

McCarnie's mother, Sherry McCranie, said, "We don't have any idea what's going on. We believe it's a terrible misunderstanding."

Starr and McCranie live about five miles apart in Roberta, a central Georgia town of 980.

A sign on Starr's driveway advertises fresh eggs for sale, while two signs on a gate blocking the driveway to McCranie's trailer warn "Beware of Dog" and "Trespassers will be Shot."

Neighbor Georgine Fesperman said she's seen a pickup full of men with shaved heads carrying rifles and dressed in camouflage drive onto the McCranie property.

An informer told agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on April 5 that he had attended a meeting with McCranie, Starr and others in which McCranie talked about blowing up a bomb on his property and said he had enough chemicals to make 40 bombs, according the affidavit.

McCranie said he already had pipe bombs on his property.

The informer said he went to a meeting on McCranie's property last Saturday and saw pre-mixed explosives, fuses, igniters, chemicals and end caps. ON Tuesday, he quoted Starr as saying he wanted to fully arm the pipe bombs today.

"Starr said that whoever wanted one could have it, but they were to bury them in their back yards. On other occasions, Starr had said that the pipe bombs would be to defend their rights against invasion of the government," the affidavit stated.

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