ANDERSON COUNTY, S.C. - A “serial bomber” hid a bomb inside a teddy bear that was left in a basket in the middle of the road in South Carolina, the FBI said in a release on Monday.
Wesley “Dallas” Ayers, 26, is suspected of six bombing incidents between Jan. 24 and Feb. 24 of last year, including the one with the teddy bear that officials found on Feb. 15, the agency said.
“This was deliberately placed where a child or passerby could have found it. Fortunately, someone saw it and knew to call us,” said Special Agent Christopher Derrickson, a supervisor in the FBI Columbia Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The six incidents included three hoax devices and three bombs, the release said.
“We knew based on all the evidence that he was not done deploying these devices,” Derrickson said. “If he had not been caught, there would have been more.”
The investigation was a “race against time,” as the FBI’s bomb experts saw that the devices got "more sophisticated each time," according to the release.
In the Jan. 30, 2018 incident, a man and his daughter drove down a rural highway in Anderson County, S.C., when they noticed a “glowing wicker basket” in the middle of the road, the FBI said. When the man stopped to examine the package, it exploded, which caused minor burns to his leg.
Among the bomb remnants, police found a piece of paper with Arabic writing referencing Osama Bin Laden, which led investigators toward a possible terrorism motive, the release said.
Then on Feb. 4, another bomb-like object was found, placed in “a black box with a letter that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and said the community was no longer safe,” according to the agency.
The FBI said Ayers “lived very close to the site of the bombings.” Investigators obtained a warrant and searched Ayers’ home that he shared with his girlfriend. They found “identical bomb components to the ones used in the devices and exact copies of the writings that had been found at the scenes.”
“Ayers’ computer history showed he had self-radicalized, consuming terrorist propaganda from Anwar al-Awlaki, Osama bin Laden, and others,” the FBI said.
Two guns and types of vest known to be used by suicide bombers were also among the evidence found in his home, the agency said.
Last October, Ayers pleaded guilty to weapons of mass destruction and firearm charges, according to the FBI. He was sentenced in February to 30 years in prison.
This story was reported in Los Angeles.