A Gloucester man is accused of committing an act of terrorism after an Oct. 19 explosion in a restaurant parking lot in Williamsburg.
Stephen Powers, 30, was arrested late Friday night at his home without incident, according to Williamsburg Police. Powers was arrested in connection to an explosion and fire Thursday across the street from The College of William and Mary.
The explosion and investigation by local, state and federal police disrupted the city roughly 45 miles south of Richmond, which was crowded with the usual tourists as well as alumni in town for the historic university's homecoming weekend.
Powers has been charged with possession of using and explosive device, and committing an act of terrorism, the release said.
The arrest was a result of a joint investigation from Williamsburg Police, Colonial Williamsburg Public Safety, James City County, Williamsburg-James City County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, and federal authorities, according to a news release.
“I would personally like to thank all the local, state and federal law enforcement partners who worked around the clock to quickly apprehend a potentially dangerous member of the community,” Williamsburg Police chief Sean Dunn said.
Officials believe the detonation was an isolated incident but are continuing the investigation, police said. No one was injured in the blast.
On Friday, FBI and ATF agents sifted through the mulch looking for evidence a day after an explosion prompted police to close several streets and adding a measure of anxiety to the school’s homecoming parade.
The investigators had been in the city since Thursday, investigating what police called an improvised explosive device that exploded at the intersection of South Boundary Street and Francis Street in Merchants Square, according to Williamsburg Police.
Authorities roped off a large area near the historic college, blocking off several streets and redirecting traffic. Tourists and college alumni in town for homecoming weekend strolled by their work, asking officers and media lined up by the police tape, “What happened?”
Around 5 p.m. Thursday, police and fire officials were called to the parking lot at Berret’s Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse Grill for what was initially reported as a car fire in the bustling tourist area.
When officials arrived, they discovered that an explosion had caused the fire in the lot owned by Colonial Williamsburg, police said. Witnesses said the explosion could be heard a few miles away and covered an SUV and other cars parked in the lot with debris.
The vehicles remained in the parking lot as evidence Friday. Williamsburg Police Lt. Greg Riley said they would not be released until authorities complete their investigation.
Williamsburg Police and city firefighters responded to another call about a possible explosive device Friday at Matthew Whaley Elementary School in the city, Riley said. Police found no threat at the elementary school, he added.
Matthew Whaley spent about an hour on lockdown while police investigated, said Williamsburg-James City County Schools spokesperson Betsy Overkamp-Smith.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the police department is taking additional measures in the area, and guests visiting Colonial Williamsburg or attending William and Mary homecoming events … may see a visible increase in law enforcement presence,” said Riley.
When Carla Franson came to work at the William and Mary’s facilities management office Friday, she saw the yellow tape and wondered what was going on.
“I saw the email from the police department saying it was safe. I trust them to know that so I went about my business,” Franson said. "We live in crazy times with a lot of stuff happening around the country, so I'm not surprised it happened at the college.
“I hope it's a false alarm,someone just playing a prank and there's nothing to fear. I'm ready (for homecoming), ready to tailgate."
Plans for homecoming weekend at the college were unchanged, campus spokesperson Suzanne Seurattan said.
William and Mary Police Chief Deb Cheeseboro said her department also responded to the crime scene. The explosion was not an immediate danger to the university, she said.
“Though this was not on campus, know the proximity is close,” she said in a university-wide email. “While the investigation is continuing, there is no indication of any ongoing threat.”
This homecoming marks the 50th anniversary of African-American residential students being admitted to William and Mary, including Janet Brown Strafer. Her sister, Ann Dales, got an early seat for the parade along Richmond Road.
The report of the explosion did not dissuade her. "I'm concerned, but I'm not afraid," she said. If you were afraid these days, “you wouldn't move."
State Police troopers with dogs were seen checking the area around the judges’ stand prior to the parade, but the route was not shortened or changed.
Debbie Acors received an email saying the explosion was being investigated, but students were not considered at risk. The Chesapeake resident came to see her two daughters, both college students, in the parade.
She noted a healthy police presence along the route. "I'm surrounded by police," she said. “I feel this is the safest place."
Another parent, Charles Modlin, a Cleveland surgeon, came to spend homecoming weekend with his daughter, Sarah Modlin, who graduates in May.
"This parade signifies the strength of the William and Mary community. It symbolizes that, no matter what someone does to distract or deter, people will rise up and live their lives," said the doctor.
Anyone with information related to the investigation is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP or the Williamsburg Police Department at (757) 220-2331.
Jimmy LaRoue and Wesley Wright contributed to this story.
Daily Press staff writers Marty O’Brien and Hugh Lessig contributed to this report.