An Edgewater man created a fake pipe bomb from a cardboard tube and plastic caps, then placed it near the Bryn Mawr Red Line station last weekend, causing a massive police response and disruptions to CTA train and bus service, prosecutors said Sunday.
Investigators fanned out across the area with images of a suspect and hit paydirt when someone recognized the man as their neighbor, Assistant State’s Attorney Meredith Rudolfi said.
James Clark, 57, is charged with felony false threat of terrorism. Judge Susana Ortiz ordered him held in lieu of $50,000 and ordered him to go onto electronic monitoring if he can post a $5,000 deposit bond. Ortiz also told Clark not to possess explosives or materials that could be used to create bombs.
Shortly before 11 a.m. on May 8, a witness flagged down police and directed them to a suspicious object near a bus stop next to the Bryn Mawr station, 1120 West Bryn Mawr, Rudolfi said. The object, a cylinder wrapped in duct tape with plastic caps on both ends and a wick sticking out of one side, was later determined to be fake — but not before police sealed off the area and CTA passengers were rerouted while a bomb squad investigated.
Rudolfi said the bomb unit tried to ignite the device, but it did not detonate, and they subsequently determined that it was an empty cardboard tube.
Police found video that shows a man carrying a distinctive backpack and leaving the device at the bus stop around 1:48 a.m. on May 8. Police later found surveillance camera footage of a man carrying a similar backpack on the 5600 block of North Winthrop, and detectives created a “seeking to identify” bulletin, Rudolfi said.
Investigators showed the bulletin to people around the Bryn Mawr station Tuesday and one of them said the suspect looked like a neighbor who lives in the 5600 block of North Winthrop. Police spoke with two managers at the apartment building and both of them identified the suspect as Clark, according to Rudolfi. Surveillance video from the apartment building allegedly shows Clark leaving the complex with the distinctive backpack shortly before the fake bomb was planted and then returning a short time later.
A cop slipped their business card under the door to Clark’s apartment, and Clark turned himself in on Friday, Rudolfi said. Police executed a search warrant at his apartment Saturday and recovered cardboard tubes that are identical to the one used to create the hoax device, according to Rudolphi. Officers also seized a backpack, coat, and pants from his apartment that are identical to items worn by the person who planted the device, she said.
Clark’s private defense attorney said he has no criminal record.
Despite Clark’s reportedly clean background, Judge Ortiz said “very strong” evidence and “the times that we live in” compelled her to require cash bail and electronic monitoring.