Standoff with man threatening explosion ends in Fairview Heights
By KIM BELL
No one was injured, he was taken into custody and neighbors who had been evacuated were being allowed back into their homes.
During the standoff, the man wore what he claimed was a suicide belt strapped to his waist. He also had 55-gallon drums he said would explode. Only after the seven-hour standoff did the bomb team inspect them and found them to be hoaxes.
The suspect, identified as Roman R. Conaway Jr., 50, claimed on his Facebook page that he was going to burn a holy book Quran at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Then, Conaway wrote on his site:
"i need everbody with a camera phone or video phone or video cameras to come to 9030 summit drive in fairview heights illinois. the media and your goverment thinks this isa joke. im not joking."
As the standoff was happening, two nieces and other relatives and friends used that forum to plead with him to surrender. One of his nieces replied on the social networking site, "uncle jr.. please dnt do this.. ur my favorite uncle :( i love u very much"
The FBI, Secret Service and Fairview Heights Police Department surrounded the home on Summit Drive on Tuesday night after he apparently had been making threats to members of the Muslim community earlier in the day.
It all began about 1 p.m. Tuesday when the St. Louis division of the FBI got information that Conaway was making "incendiary comments about the Muslim community and possibly threatened the president."
That information was relayed to the Springfield, Ill., office of the FBI. They teamed up with the Secret Service and the Fairview Heights Police Department to go to Conaway's home.
When they approached the house with the joint terrorism task force on Tuesday, Conaway came out of the house with his wife and son.
"He was wearing a belt that he claimed was a suicide explosive belt. He also showed us two 55 gallon drums which he claimed had explosive material inside," said Stu McArthur, special agent in charge of the FBI's Springfield division.
FBI officials said they were told he had some sorts of explosives training, although they couldn't verify that and don't believe it's true. Only after the standoff ended did the FBI realize that the explosives weren't real. Officials identified the material around the man's belt as plastic "play-doh" material.
McArthur said police negotiated with Conaway. Five or six hours later, negotiators convinced him to release his wife and son. At 2:15 a.m. today, Conaway surrendered.
"He removed the device around his waist as well as dismantled the devices around these 55 gallon drums and surrendered to law enforcement," McArthur said.
Bomb-squad members inspecting the devices and found them to be hoax devices.
Conaway was arrested and will face charges for threatening to use an explosive device and possibly threatening the president.
"We are still investigating, at this time, to get more information about the exact nature of this information that came to us earlier yesterday," McArthur said.
Conaway's rantings on his Facebook page criticize the government, Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, Obama, a local judge and others. In one posting in July, he writes: "he obama adm.needs to clean up the org.crime starting with law inforcements.i hope the next attack on u.s.is ill.and they leave nothin left."
People from the neighborhood were evacuated for several hours to the nearby Sterling Baptist Church, at the corner of Bunkum and Highland roads. The area is near the Illinois 157 interchange with Interstate 64.
As of 8 a.m. today (Wednesday), the FBI said it hadn't yet interviewed Conaway to know more about his motives, said Brad Ware, a spokesman for the FBI's Springfield division. Authorities planned to present evidence to the U.S. attorney's office for charges, Ware said.