Man charged with terrorism

Published 11:07 pm Monday, September 8, 2008

The bomb found Friday night in a meth lab in the Gantt community was meant to harm Drug Task Force agents, according to information received from confidential informants, Sgt. Ray Dixon said Monday.

Its maker, William Travis Cowart, is now being charged with terrorism, criminal possession of an explosive device, trafficking methamphetamines, first-degree manufacturing and possession of drug paraphernalia. He sits in the Covington County Jail under a nearly $4 million bond. Also arrested was Brenda Craig, who is charged with trafficking methamphetamines, first-degree manufacturing and possession of drug paraphernalia. She is being held on a $1.8 million bond.

On Friday, DTF agents raided Cowart’s home, located at the intersection of Hwy. 29 and Pier 7 Road, after receiving information of suspected drug activity.

What agents found when they stormed the residence was unbelievable, Dixon said.

“There were weapons everywhere inside the home,” he said. “After inventorying the residence Saturday, we counted 59 guns ranging from assault rifles and sniper rifles to handguns. There were other booby traps scattered throughout the house. We also found more explosive components like gunpowder, fuses and other bomb making material.

“It is amazing no one was hurt in the process,” he said. “When we obtained the search warrant for the residence, we had information that said there was a bomb inside. We had everyone on standby — we even had Life Flight ready in case one of us took a bullet. We didn’t know just what we were going to face, but we were as ready as we could get when we knocked on the door.”

Dixon said agents also located finished meth, as well as an unknown quantity of bi-layered liquid.

The bomb, which was a homemade explosive device, was constructed using a jar filled with gunpowder and live ammunition that, had the bomb detonated, would have operated like a handheld grenade.

“Instead of throwing out pieces of shrapnel, this device would have thrown out bullets,” he said.

Late Friday night, members of the Dothan Bomb Squad, including an explosive technician from the Andalusia Police Department, were working to dispose of the bomb. On Saturday, law enforcement was able to disarm and dismantle it instead of detonating it, Dixon said. Several other explosive devices were located Saturday and were taken to the firing range in Andalusia where they were disposed of, he said.

Dixon said informants told agents Cowart knew the “DTF was after him” and he would “have something for them” when they attempted to arrest him.

“(The bomb) had a clothes pin tripping device for it,” he said. “The bomb, according to several sources, was designed for the DTF when we made entry — that he made statements that he had something for us when we came in, along with several booby traps.

“He had actually showed (the bomb) to one person,” he said. “In a taped statement (Cowart) stated it was intended for his ex-girlfriend — to take care of her.”

Dixon said the case has caught the attention not only of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but also of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“ATF will be around lunch (today) to look at these items and the FBI has contacted us requesting information about the case for their database,” he said.

Cowart told DTF agents he downloaded the instructions from the Internet.

“He used something titled ‘The Terrorist’s Handbook,’ Dixon said. “We found the actual copy he used and seized it.”

As a result of his actions and alleged threats against lives, Cowart is being charged as a terrorist.

“Any time a device like that is intended to (do harm), it changes the way the government operates,” Dixon said. “We couldn’t have handled this case by ourselves and are thankful for the assistance lent to us from every law enforcement agency.”

Prior to their arrests Friday, both Cowart and Craig were out on bond on previous drug-related charges. Late Monday, the district attorney’s office was working to have their bonds revoked in light of the new charges.