An arrest has been made in connection with an incident in which a “suspicious package” was found at the Harrogate Post Office Friday morning. Area businesses were closed and evacuated as a precaution, as well as some buildings at Lincoln Memorial University. Northbound traffic on U.S. Hwy. 25E was narrowed to one lane and slowed as numerous law enforcement agencies lined the roadside.
The suspect was taken into custody at his home after a short investigation, according to Claiborne County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director David Breeding.
Shawn David Bailey, 26, of Harrogate, was arrested after being named a “person of interest” by the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). He was questioned at the scene by several law enforcement officials and then taken to the Claiborne County Justice Center.
According to Breeding, the package was found at approximately 8:45 a.m. When authorities arrived at the scene, the post office and buildings around it were evacuated as a precaution. Lincoln Memorial University’s buildings closest to U.S. Hwy. 25E and the J. Frank White Academy were evacuated as a precaution as well.
“As I was coming into the post office a group of employees were coming out,” said eyewitness Brandon Fricke of Harrogate. “They told me I couldn’t go in because they’d found a suspicious package and they locked the door so no one else could enter.”
The CCSO quickly arrived on the scene, and Sheriff David Ray said they took the incident seriously.
“We’re not treating this as a hoax at all,” he said. “We’re treating it as a very, very serious possibility that it’s harmful.”
In addition to the emergency management and the sheriff’s office, other officials were called in, including the United States Postal Inspectors, Knox County Bomb Squad, Knox County Sheriff’s Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Claiborne County EMS and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
A man was spotted being questioned at the scene by several of the law enforcement agencies.
“We have a person of interest,” confirmed Ray. The man, later identified as Bailey, was taken by Ray and other officials to the Claiborne County Justice Center for further questioning.
Det. Tim Shrout confirmed Friday evening that Bailey was charged locally with aggravated criminal trespassing and hoax explosive device, both felony charges.
Shrout stated that it is still unknown for certain whether or not the device was actually explosive, only that the particular charge was what he is being charged with at this time.
“Federal charges are pending as well,” he stated.
The taped up package was deemed “suspicious” when someone spotted it with wires protruding from it, he added.
“There was some identification left at the scene that led us to him,” said Shrout, adding that Bailey appeared to be “expecting” law enforcement officials and was waiting on them to arrive.
Once the bomb squad arrived, they got the device out of the post office building and detonated it in the open area behind Hardee’s, which is next to the post office. A small explosion could be heard around the area.
Because it is unknown whether the package actually contained a bomb, said Breeding, he added there may be further testing done to determine that.
There were no injuries at all during the incident, Breeding confirmed.
An explosives K-9 unit from Knox County was used to inspect the perimeter and the post office building before personnel were allowed back inside, he said.
The situation was cleared and people were allowed back into the buildings at approximately 12:15 p.m.
The motive behind Bailey’s alleged actions is unclear at this time, Shrout said.
Bailey is being held on no bond in the Claiborne County Jail until arraignment, which will most likely be Monday, Shrout said.
“The Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office and others involved worked together well,” said Breeding. “The sheriff’s office did a good job of picking him (Bailey) up very quickly.”
Reach Marisa Anders at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @newsgirl88.