A Mississippi man allegedly threw a bomb at a Wal-Mart store because it discontinued sales of the state flag, which has the Confederate battle emblem, a police official said Monday. Marshall E. Leonard, a strong supporter of the controversial flag, was charged with detonating an explosive and imprisoned.
The incident occurred at a local Wal-Mart store early Sunday when the 61-year-old resident of Tupelo, a city in northeastern Mississippi, threw the homemade explosive device at the store, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, a local newspaper reported. No injuries were reported in the incident and the remains of the bomb were sent for examination, according to the Daily Journal.
“A white male got out, lit the package and threw it in the vestibule,” Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre told the newspaper. “There was an employee on break, and the suspect told him, ‘You better run.’ The employee did run and was away from harm when the package went off. It wasn’t a large explosion. It didn’t cause a lot of damage to the store,” Aguirre added.
Aguirre said Leonard allegedly lit a newspaper-wrapped package and tossed it into the store. According to Aguirre, bomb technicians said that that the device had enough explosives to damage the store if it was assembled in a different way, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
"He's [Leonard] a strong supporter of keeping that flag flying. ... This is his way of bringing attention to that," Aguirre reportedly said.
Police reportedly caught Leonard after his car -- adorned with the Confederate battle flag -- was spotted in the area, running a red light in front of the store.
“The officer pulled him over for the traffic violation, but when the calls started coming in, we quickly figured out we needed to hang on to this suspect,” Aguirre told the Daily Journal. “We still have some more interviews to do and still need to search his car before we take him in front of a judge Tuesday.”
Leonard’s bond hearing is likely to be held Tuesday and the judge will appoint an attorney if Leonard, who lives alone and is unemployed, cannot afford one, Aguirre said, according to AP.
Wal-Mart stopped selling any products having reproductions of the Confederate battle flag after the June 17 killing of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Certain cities and institutions in Mississippi also stopped flying the state flag.