Russian man faces weapon of mass destruction charges in Altoona
By Steve Almasy, CNN
(CNN) — Authorities in Pennsylvania arrested a 19-year-old Russian man Friday and charged him with possession of a weapon of mass destruction, Altoona police said in a written statement.
Police officers were investigating a reported marijuana-growing operation when they discovered a homemade bomb and bomb-making materials in a suitcase, the news release said.
Vladislav Miftakhov, a Russian citizen, was arrested and charged with possessing a weapon of mass destruction, risking a catastrophe and drug-related offenses. He was arraigned Friday and bail was set at $500,000, Blair County corrections officer James McMahon said Sunday.
According to a criminal complaint, police found one pound of atomized magnesium and one pound of Chinese potassium perchlorate along with a package labeled potassium nitrate powder. They also found fuses and several containers of compressed air.
When asked what he was going to do with two devices that were found with exposed fuses, Miftakhov said “he was going to blow things up,” the complaint alleges.
Miftakhov later said he only intended to set devices off in a field and wasn’t going to blow anything up, the document says.
He told police that he had previously experimented with other homemade explosives in California.
Authorities found five marijuana seedlings and a grow light, the complaint says.
Miftakhov will next appear in court on February 5. He will be assigned a public defender, McMahon said.
The Pennsylvania State Police bomb squad “safely deconstructed” the device, officials said.
According to the release, Miftakhov told officers that he had purchased materials for the bomb on the Internet.
A man who lived in the same building told CNN affiliate WTAJ that Miftakhov was “the weirdest individual that I’ve ever met,” but Andrew Leff added that he didn’t think Miftakhov had done anything dangerous before.
Leff told the Altoona Mirror, which identified him as an apartment-mate, that Miftakhov had recently set off three small homemade bombs outside the apartment, leaving small craters in the ground. Another roommate, Steven Taylor, said Miftakhov was quiet.
“He barely talked,” he told the newspaper.
An independent student newspaper said the Russian native is a student at Penn State Altoona, a branch of the university about 40 miles from the main campus. The Altoona campus has about 3,645 full-time students, according to the school’s website.