Army veteran arrested with trunk full of explosives outside Dearborn Islamic center
Dearborn – An ex-Army veteran from California who is accused of driving to Metro Detroit’s largest mosque with a trunk full of explosives is behind bars after being charged with making a terrorist threat.
Roger Stockham, 63, is charged with one count of a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of explosives-possession of bombs with unlawful intent after Dearborn police arrested him Monday outside the Islamic Center of America, one the largest mosques in North America.
Stockham, a resident of Imperial Beach, Calif., is being held on a $500,000 cash bond. He will be in court on Friday for hearing on the charges before 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers.
FBI special agent Sandra Berchtold confirmed today the FBI is investigating an incident referred to the federal agency by Dearborn police.
Police said Stockham was in possession of class C fireworks, a 15-year felony, when he was arrested Monday outside the center. The terrorism charge is a 20-year felony.
On his MySpace page, Stockham said, “Proud of my kids. Happy with how much I’ve lived. Ready for it to be over, but have a policy I contend with often: So long as I am alive, I can’t play dead.”
At a website for a VFW post, Stockham posted a photograph and said he joined the U.S. Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam in 1968. Based in Pleiku, Stockham said he flew with an assault helicopter company. He says he has two children and a grandchild.
Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr. said the suspect, who drove from California to Michigan last week, was in possession of high-end fireworks outside the 70,000-square-foot-mosque which has a 150-foot dome height and 10-stories tall minarets.
“The kind that are illegal here and if used in a building would cause tremendous harm,” O’Reilly said today.
Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter, said he learned from police that the suspect had been drinking in a Detroit bar on Monday when he threatened to do harm to a mosque in Dearborn. A bar employee followed the man outside and wrote down his license plate and called Detroit police who in turned contacted authorities in Dearborn, Walid said.
Dearborn police began searching areas around mosques in the city and allegedly found Stockham inside his vehicle outside the Islamic Center of America, Walid said, with a load of M-80s in his trunk and other explosives. Inside more than 500 members had gathered for a funeral service, Walid said. It was not known whether the suspect knew a funeral was underway.
Members of the Islamic Center of America were alerted to the threat during Friday’s prayer service, Walid said.
“We thank law enforcement authorities for their quick and professional actions in this troubling incident,” Walid said. “The increased number of bias incidents targeting American Muslim institutions must be addressed by local, state and national officials and law enforcement authorities.”
Investigators chose to keep the arrest quiet during the week while detectives determined whether Stockham was acting alone or with others, O’Reilly said. Police worked with the mosque’s Imam during the investigation, he said.
O’Reilly said it appears Stockham was acting alone.
“People asked why they didn’t know about this earlier: why is because it’s based on who needs to know. There was no threat to anyone else and no one else was in danger,” O’Reilly said.