Deputies were at bombing suspect's Gloucester home 5 days before blast

The Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office responded to an incident at the home of the man accused of planting a bomb at Colonial Williamsburg five days before the blast, the sheriff’s office told the Daily Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Stephen Powers, 30, of Gloucester, is charged with possessing and using an explosive device and committing an act of terrorism in connection with an explosion in a Merchants Square parking lot on Oct. 19, according to Williamsburg Police Department spokesman Maj. Greg Riley. No one was injured in the blast.

Powers, who performed maintenance work at Colonial Williamsburg, was arrested at his home on Villiage Drive in Hayes on Oct. 20.

The Williamsburg Police Department first started investigating on Oct. 12, after an incident at a Colonial Williamsburg maintenance office the previous day, according to the criminal complaint filed at the Williamsburg-James City County General District Court.

Williamsburg firefighters and Colonial Williamsburg security responded to a reported smell of sulfur at the office on Oct. 11, but didn’t find anything. Williamsburg police responded the next day, the criminal complaint says, when Powers reported that he had found a handwritten note on the office door that said, “I am sorry my device did not work last night. -D.”

Powers reported finding a second note on the door on Oct. 14, according to the document.

The Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office responded to Powers’ home that same day, according to the FOIA response. The office declined to provide specific details about the incident because “it may be involved in Williamsburg Police Department’s ongoing investigation,” FOIA officer Kyrstin Shackelford wrote in her response.

Two days later, on Oct. 16, Powers was recorded on security camera video buying gun powder at the Bass Pro Shop in Hampton, investigators learned after the blast. He reported his credit card was stolen after the purchase, according to the criminal complaint.

Powers’ supervisor told him not to come to work on Oct. 17.

The complaint says Powers told police after his arrest that he had received “another letter in his mailbox” — apparently his home mailbox — on Oct. 18.

The device, later determined to be a pipe bomb, exploded in parking lot P5 shortly after 5 p.m. Oct. 19, officials said. The parking lot is connected to the exterior door where Powers said he had found the first two letters, according to the complaint.

Investigators think the bomb was placed in the mulch around a tree in the parking lot. They found that lights on a nearby tree were no longer working. They also found a brown extension cord that was frayed on one end and the other end plugged into the tree lights, the complaint says.

Little is known about Powers. He told investigators he had deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Air Force, but they determined that was false. Court records only show a 2011 traffic infraction and a 2014 Schedule 7 bankruptcy filing.

In its response to the Daily Press FOIA request, the Gloucester sheriff reported only the Oct. 14 incident at Powers’ current residence, and just one at his former residence, where he was the complainant.

It is unclear if Powers was included in a recent round of layoffs as part of Colonial Williamsburg’s restructuring. The CW Foundation announced in June it would lay off 71 people by the end of the year. An additional 262 employees would be offered work by outside contractors.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation spokesman Joe Straw declined to tell the Daily Press if Powers was still employed by Colonial Williamsburg or if he had transitioned to a contractor. That information, he said, is part of the ongoing investigation.

Ketchum can be reached by phone at 757-247-7478.

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