John Kennedy was identified from this Wal-Mart surveillance photo taken after he purchased materials used to make explosives left in Trenton. Among Kennedy’s purchases was a cellular phone from which a bomb threat was called in to Trenton High School.
By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – A multi-agency investigation resulted in the arrest June 7 of John Robert Kennedy on weapons and explosives charges related to a pair of explosive devices left in Trenton and a bomb threat made to Trenton High School.
Kennedy, 41, was arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Marshals, Michigan State Police and Trenton Police Department arrested Kennedy in Flat Rock, where he was living at his mother and stepfather’s house. Police and federal agents believe Kennedy was responsible for planting two explosive devices in the city as well as the bomb threat made to the high school on April 28.
That phone call, according to a criminal complaint filed by U.S. Marshals, steered investigators to Kennedy, an Indiana native living at his mother and stepfather’s mobile home in Flat Rock.
Officials in Trenton, including Mayor Gerald Brown, were confident that the right man was taken into custody.
“The evidence is very good evidence,” Brown said. “It was a great arrest with great cooperation between two areas of law enforcement. I believe that, in the end, we’ll have a conviction.”
Investigators said that the school bomb threat was made from a cellular phone that was activated through TracFone Wireless. The caller said that four bombs were set to go off in the school, which was immediately evacuated. The same individual was believed responsible for an explosive device discovered that afternoon in the teacher’s parking lot. A bomb squad was called in to disarm the device, which was taken for evidence.
Further, authorities believed the same person detonated an improvised explosive device near the parking lot of ACO Hardware, 3080 Van Horn Road.
Of particular use in the investigation was tracing the phone number from which the bomb threat was made in April. The phone was purchased three days earlier, April 25, from Wal-Mart in Woodhaven. Store records confirmed the time of the cash purchase, which included the phone, glue sticks, welding compound and other items.
Surveillance footage identified the suspect, a white male with a stocky build wearing a military-green flight jacket, who was videotaped while leaving the parking lot in a light colored Chevrolet Trailblazer, likely a 2005 or 2006.
On May 24, investigators learned from TracFone that the call to Trenton High School originated near Rockwood; three days later, a list of Chevy Trailblazers fitting the suspect’s vehicle description included one owned by Kennedy’s stepfather in Flat Rock.
The final information needed for a warrant came after June 6, when ATF officials released through local media outlets the Wal-Mart surveillance images. A call was made to the Trenton Police Department – reportedly by a relative of Kennedy’s – that provided the Flat Rock address.
After securing a warrant, a multi-divisional task force took Kennedy into custody and he was arraigned Tuesday before U.S. District Court Magistrate Mark Random.
According to the complaint, Kennedy has a criminal history in Michigan dating back to 1991 which includes five felony convictions – three for weapons related offenses and two for possession of a Molotov cocktail or other explosives.
A detention hearing on Thursday resulted in Kennedy remaining in custody without bond. A preliminary exam had yet to be scheduled at press time.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])