Pine County man arrested in white powder mailing, fake bombs - KMSP-TV

Pine County man arrested in white powder mailing, fake bombs

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PINE COUNTY, Minn. (KMSP) -

A 45-year-old Pine County, Minn. man has been taken into custody in connection with the November mailing of several envelopes that contained mostly harmless bacteria in the form of a white powder.

Police say Johnnie Long was connected to the aforementioned crime and other related incidents involving fake bombs in the area.

Law enforcement officials from several agencies were already investigating Long prior to the Nov. 19 mailing, and investigators told Fox 9 News the implicit message he was trying to send was: "Look what I could do if I wanted to."

The East Central Violent Offenders Task Force and the FBI were already looking into Long in connection with multiple discoveries of homemade devices that were built to look like explosives and planted at various locations with the intent of inducing fear.  

Police say Long is their lone suspect, and they say he escalated the appearance of explosive potential with each successive device.

The most recent incident police attribute to Long involved six envelopes which contained a bacterial agent mixed with household powders. Law enforcement agents insist that last act convinced authorities the man had the potential to commit an a lethal act.

The envelopes were mailed to the Pine County sheriff, two deputies, two judges and the county attorney.

The white powder tested negative for substances used in bioterrorism; however, the letters did contain two kinds of Bacillus bacteria, which occur naturally in the environment and are not particularly harmful. Bacillus Thuringiensis has no adverse health effects, and Bacillus Cereus produces symptoms similar to food poisoning, like diarrhea and vomiting. When refined, the bacteria can be used as an insecticide.

Yet according to the FBI, the presence of the two strains, both of which were described as refined and pure, suggest the mailer knew how to cultivate the powder. The same sophisticated techniques could be used to make anthrax or other deadly bacteriological weapons.

Investigators located and arrested Long on Thursday. Once he was in custody, the investigative agencies -- as well as the St. Paul Police Department's Weapons of Mass Destruction unit and the Minnesota National  Guard's 55th Civil Support Team -- were dispatched to an isolated, rural area in Pine County to execute a search warrant on Long's Braham, Minn., home.

Both the apprehension and search of Long's home were conducted without incident, and he remains jailed in Pine County on multiple charges of terrorism and terroristic threats charges.

Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole told Fox 9 News Long confessed during an interview with police, and although no motive has been specifically given, Fox 9 News has learned exclusively that the man may have been trying to frame others for the crime.

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