WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) – A person of interest was identified and arrested regarding the detonation of an improvised explosive device in a parking lot in Merchant Square, a shopping center between W&M and Colonial Williamsburg.
Police identified the suspect as 30-year-old Stephen Powers of Gloucester. He was arrested at his home by the Williamsburg Police Department and has been charged with possession of and using an explosive device and committing an act of terrorism.
The incident occurred around 5 p.m. Thursday, near the intersection of South Boundary Street and Francis Street. The call came in as a vehicle fire. When units arrived, they learned an explosion was confirmed as a detonation of an IED. The device was located outside of a car parked in the lot.
Major Greg Riley with the Williamsburg Police Department said no one was hurt and there was no damage to any of the vehicles in the parking lot. Officers believe it was set off intentionally and was an isolated incident.
A suspected motive has not been released.
Dawn Kahle was working at nearby Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop.
“I was unloading sodas and right before I looked up, I heard this loud boom like, you know, I thought a car backfired or something and I look up and I see a bunch of smoke, a woman running from a car,” she said. “It was a little crazy finding out this morning, because like I said, it’s never happened out here, but I mean, it’s a prime area for something like that to happen, which is very scary to me.”
Michael Kellum is manager of Berret’s Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse Grill — located near the scene of the explosion.
“A lot of fire department, a lot of police, then ATF showed up, and then FBI, but first of all, we would like to thank the first responders who came out here promptly to take care of this because we didn’t know what was going on,” Kellum said.
The restaurant had to close early Thursday and remained closed much of Friday. Kellum said they are more concerned about the safety of their guests and staff than loss of business, but hope the explosion doesn’t scare customers away.
“It’s disheartening, but these are the times that we live in now and that’s just the sad part,” he said.
This is a busy time in Williamsburg because it is homecoming weekend for The College of William & Mary. Plans for homecoming are proceeding as scheduled, according a William & Mary spokesperson.
10 On Your Side spoke with alumni and students enjoying the parade on Friday afternoon, not fearful of a repeat event.
“Everyone here on campus is just really excited for the game and for homecoming,” said freshman Sydney Liles. “I don’t think something like that’s gonna stop people from showing up.”
Williamsburg Police say that units with Williamsburg Police, Williamsburg Fire, Colonial Williamsburg Public Safety, Newport News Police, Virginia State Police, the ATF and the FBI also responded to assist in the investigation.
Police sent a message Friday morning to the William & Mary community:
I write this morning about an incident you may see in the news.
Last night there was an explosive device discovered off-campus in a Colonial Williamsburg parking lot at Francis and S. Boundary Streets (P5). The report was made to Williamsburg Police around 5 p.m. No injuries have been reported.
Though this was not on-campus, know the proximity is close. While the investigation is continuing, there is no indication of any ongoing threat. Williamsburg Police and other agencies are handling the investigation.
Francis Street is currently closed between S. Boundary and S. Henry Streets. Detours are in place.
William & Mary Police were on-scene last night and we continue to follow this closely but again, see no ongoing threat to campus.
– Deb Cheesebro, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police
A section of Francis St. between South Boundary Street and South Henry was closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic during the investigation. The roads were reopened to traffic Friday evening.