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Sheriff: Man arrested after bringing explosive devices to Pinellas protest

Posted at 4:58 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-08 08:14:10-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — A Pinellas County man was arrested on several felony charges after deputies said he brought an explosive device to a lawful protest.

Deputies said 22-year-old Garret James Smith was seen running away from the protest around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said protesters gathered outside the county courthouse protesting the incarceration of 47-year-old Jeremy Brown. Brown is currently being held at the Pinellas County Jail on federal charges stemming from the January 6, 2021 incident at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Deputies located Smith near 49th Street by the protest. He was wearing all black and had his face covered. Deputies do not know if Smith ever interacted with the group of protesters.

"He was carrying a black backpack. He was running fast and looked like he was fleeing from something," said Sheriff Gualtieri.

Deputies arrested Smith for loitering and prowling. Inside his backpack deputies found an explosive device and a black helmet. Deputies searched the area and did not locate any other devices. No explosives were detonated.

Sheriff Gualtieri said deputies located a handwritten note in the backpack. It was called a "direct action checklist". It contained notes for what Smith was wearing and what he had in his backpack.

Explosive Jan 7 2022

Deputies got a search warrant for Smith's home and located more explosives and materials to make bombs in his room. The sheriff's office said Smith lived at the home with his parents in Oldsmar.

Sheriff Gualtieri said Smith refused to speak to deputies so they do not know his motive or his intentions. He has no prior criminal history. Deputies said they could not locate any social media accounts.

"Smith is what we call a "sleeper" and these are the most concerning individuals because there's no opportunity to intervene and thwart their criminal activity until they actually act, fortunate in this situation that something caused Smith to flee before he ignited the explosive device," said Sheriff Gualtieri.

Smith faces three counts of possession of a destructive device and one count of Loitering and prowling.