Man charged with making bomb

Police say abortion clinic in Prince George's County was to be target

June 09, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

A Prince George's County man who authorities say was planning to attack an abortion clinic was arrested on charges of manufacturing an explosive device, a pipe bomb that police detonated in a friend's house after trying to disable it.

Robert F. Weiler Jr., 25, who had a loaded gun at the time of his arrest, surrendered to police early yesterday at a Garrett County highway rest stop, authorities said.

Weiler was charged with possessing an illegal explosive device, making an illegal explosive device, illegally possessing a firearm with a previous felony conviction and possessing a stolen firearm.

Police said that the target was a College Park abortion clinic and doctors who perform the procedures.

The bomb - made with black powder, galvanized pipe, nails, seven feet of fuse and one-inch-diameter end caps - was discovered in the closet of a friend's home in Riverdale and detonated about 3:30 a.m., after Prince George's police bomb technicians were unable to disable it using a robot, said Mike Campbell, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The house was damaged and caught fire, but no one was injured, police said.

Weiler, of the 3200 block of Maygreen Ave. in Forestville, was ordered held without bail at the Garrett County Detention Center pending a hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on the four charges.

Weiler was convicted in Utah in 2003 for obstructing police, according to charging documents.

A friend of Weiler's alerted Prince George's police Wednesday afternoon, saying that the man had stolen a gun and about $3,400, Campbell said.

That night, Weiler called ATF agents and said he wanted to surrender. A loaded .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun was in the glove compartment of the 1993 Nissan Sentra he had been driving when state police arrested him.

"He pretty much confessed to what's going on and he called us to surrender," Campbell said. "At this point, he didn't say why. He admitted that the firearm he possessed was to be utilized to shoot doctors who performed abortions.

"We're not aware of any [conspirators] at this time. He hasn't said anything to investigators about anyone else. At this point, it appears he acted alone."

The gun was bought from a store in Forestville on May 5 and reported stolen on May 26, police said.

The abortion clinic was identified in charging documents as Metropolitan Family Planning Institute Inc., in the 5900 block of Greenbelt Road in College Park.

Attempts to reach the doctor in charge of the clinic were unsuccessful.

In 1984, the Annapolis offices of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, where abortions are provided, were bombed. Michael D. Bray, a Bowie minister, was sentenced in 1987 to six years in prison after he was convicted of that bombing and nine others at clinics and family planning centers in 1984 and 1985.

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, which has been tracking violence at abortion clinics since 1977, said bombings at facilities have decreased from a peak in the 1980s and early 1090s. But she said clinics should remain vigilant for possible attacks.

Since 1996, she said, there have been 11 bombings, 25 attempted bombings and arsons, and 35 arsons at the offices of abortion providers nationwide.

"There are still extremists out there that think it's acceptable to use violence to try to stop abortions," Saporta said. "It remains a serious problem in this country."

Wendy J. Royalty, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Maryland, said its two abortion facilities - in Annapolis and Baltimore - have tight security.

"It's very disconcerting to us that somebody would be that close to making an attack," Royalty said. "These people are out there. For everyone like him that makes himself be known, there are lots more behind him."

Maritza Hernandez, 32, who lives across 67th Avenue in Riverdale from the house where the bomb exploded, said the people who lived there - a woman and her adult son - rarely spoke to neighbors.

"They weren't friendly people," Hernandez said. "They don't speak with anybody."

Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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