Clearwater, FL – A man suspected of having antifa connections was arrested with a pipe bomb near a rally outside the Pinellas County Jail last week.
The incident occurred at about 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 6 when supporters of Jeremy Brown, a Tampa member of the Oath Keepers who is currently incarcerated and facing federal charges for his actions at Capitol riot, were holding a rally in front of the jail, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Brown was arrested after pictures surfaced of him in tactical gear inside the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.
When federal authorities searched Brown’s home, agents found a sawed-off shotgun, a short-barrel rifle, hand grenades, and more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
A federal judge ordered Brown without bond until trial.
The rally was held by supporters on the first anniversary of the Capitol riot and featured some local lawmakers and Brown – via telephone – as speakers, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Events were underway when two deputies spotted a suspicious person dressed entirely in black with a balaclava covering his face who appeared to be sneaking away from the rally.
The suspect – later identified as 22-year-old Garrett James Smith – ran and deputies chased him down.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference on Jan. 7 that when deputies caught up with Smith, they searched his backpack and found “a pipe-type explosive device.”
“It could have been very destructive, and he could have hurt a lot of people,” the sheriff said.
Smith’s backpack also contained “Direct Action Checklist” that listed out exactly the items that the suspect was wearing and what he had brought with him, including a helmet and shaded goggles, a gas mask, duct tape, and flammable rags, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Sheriff Gualtieri said deputies located Smith’s car parked nearby and found a bag of M-80 fireworks inside it.
Charging documents showed the arresting detective noted “Antifa” under the “aggravating/mitigating” section of the arrest report and requested a high bail for Smith, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The detective also wrote “Antifa/Anti gov/Extrem” on one of the arrest documents.
Sheriff Gualtieri said deputies found a helmet in Smith’s backpack that had the same logo on it as had been seen at riots in Portland and other cities, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The black helmet was decorated with three red arrows in a circle, which the sheriff said was the “Iron Front” logo widely used by antifa, the New York Post reported.
He said that Smith refused to talk to investigators and that authorities didn’t know his political beliefs or whether the man with the pipe bomb supported or opposed the protesters in front of the jail, what his plan was, or why he was sneaking away in the middle of the event, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The sheriff said it was too early to say with whom Smith was affiliated.
He said Smith had no prior record and the sheriff’s department had no prior intelligence on him.
Sheriff Gualtieri also said Smith has absolutely no social media presence, the New York Post reported.
“He was all dressed, he had his device, he had his plan,” the sheriff said. “How was he gonna do it? I have no idea.”
Sheriff Gualtieri said his department was working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the investigation into Smith, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“Smith is what we call a sleeper, and these are the most concerning individuals because there are no opportunities to intervene and thwart their criminal activity before they actually act,” Sheriff Gualtieri said.
He said the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and FBI Tampa’s bomb technician confirmed the pipe bomb in Smith’s backpack was an active explosive device.
Sheriff Gualtieri said that deputies shut down the rally in front of the jail at about 7:45 p.m., after the device was found on Smith, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
The sheriff said bomb-sniffing K9s and a heat-sensing helicopter were brought in to search the area.
Deputies got a search warrant for Smith’s parents’ house, where he lives, and found another pipe explosive there, as well as hand grenade-style explosives, nails, and duct tape, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Smith was charged with making and possessing a destructive device and loitering, the New York Post reported.
He was held in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of a $300,000 bond.
Smith’s arrest occurred on his 22nd birthday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.