Police: Bomb suspect wanted to blow up Ogden buildings

Tuesday , July 15, 2014 - 6:23 PM


TREMONTON — In addition to plans to shoot two of his officers and blow up his department, Tremonton Police Chief David Nance said John Huggins’ schemes included blowing up buildings in Ogden.

Nance said Monday Huggins’ plan to blow up infrastructure such as bridges and Interstate 15 exit ramps to hinder emergency response, included a seemingly unrelated component involving explosives in Ogden.

“We’re not releasing that,” Nance said in declining to say which Ogden buildings Huggins named.

But the chief would say it was not a federal building. “He was not singling out any particular organizations or groups,” said Nance.

Huggins, 47, of Tremonton, was arrested Thursday by Tremonton police and the FBI on a charge of possession of an unregistered destructive device. He has a detention hearing Tuesday in federal court in Salt Lake City.

The maximum penalty if found guilty is 10 years in prison. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Huggins case will be presented to a grand jury for possible additional charges.

Federal charging documents say Huggins’ grand plan was to trigger an uprising against the government. His ex-wife called him a survivalist.

“He was trying to recruit people who had grudges similar to his,” Nance said.

“And there have been indications he was trying to form his own militia, which hasn’t panned out.”

Huggins’ wild talk was gathered by an informant Tremonton police developed with Huggins earlier this year, and an undercover agent the FBI supplied more recently who was introduced to Huggins, according to charging documents.

The investigation found Huggins in possession of a grenade-like device made from a 5-Hour energy bottle loaded with shrapnel, plus a video of Huggins blowing up a car.

An informant for the police met with Huggins several times to discuss explosives and purchased a thumb drive from him containing various plans to manufacture drugs, explosives and booby traps.

On Thursday an undercover agent made contact with Huggins, the court papers say, posing as a like-minded individual with an interest in explosives. The agent was able to convince Huggins to sell him schematics on explosives and agreed to build him one.

After the meeting, Huggins was arrested.

The investigation was triggered when a “concerned citizen” contacted the Tremonton PD in February to say that Huggins was going to blow up his bible study group.

“It took a couple weeks before we were able to determine he meant bible study group as kind of a code for the (Tremonton) police department,” Nance said.

Huggins ex-wife Michelle Pingel Huggins has said Huggins has long had a fascination with explosives.

“He’s always been this way. It’s been his personality to talk about explosives. He’s always been fascinated with them,” she said. They divorced in 2002 and have three children, she said.

Her ex-husband was an engineering technician and served in the National Guard, Michelle Huggins said.

“He loved being in the Army, and when he was out of that, he still played it all the time,” she said. “He would dress up in Army (clothes) and go practice. We lived out in the country, and he would just go be an Army boy in the afternoons. He was a survivalist.”

Nance said the Tremonton force has a history with John David Huggins going back at least 15 years, beginning with arrests in 1999 in assault and drug cases.

In 2007 a Tremonton arrest on gun, drugs and another bomb charge lead to a year in the county jail, according to the state courts database.

The bomb was detonated by a Cache County bomb squad, but the case included none of the rhetoric accompanying the current bomb case, Nance said.

Last year a landlord who had evicted Huggins contacted Tremonton police about unusual chemicals found in his apartment. This led to a Box Elder Narcotics Strike Force case against Huggins for possession of methamphetamine.

That investigation turned up five spiral notebooks that were detailed logs Huggins kept from tracking the Tremonton force on police scanners.

The meth case is scheduled for trial in September in 1st District court in Brigham City.

And last year the Tremonton department tried to take Huggins’ guns away.

The same week as the strike force arrest, Tremonton police during a traffic stop found Huggins in possession of firearms, including semiautomatic assault rifles.

Huggins was charged with four counts of possession of a weapon by a restricted person because he had prior felony arrests, which bans firearms ownership.

“His record showed felonies, but it turns out they were reduced in a plea bargain,” Nance said. Those charges were dismissed in December.

Nance said an investigation is continuing of Huggins’ associates that could lead to arrests of others on conspiracy charges related to the explosives charge that now has Huggins in federal custody.

The ex-wife also said Huggins worked for years at Autoliv, which manufactures airbags, employed with the detonation packages which inflate the airbags.

“He has not worked at Autoliv in a while,” Nance said, noting that at the time of his arrest, Huggins was unemployed.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, tgurrister@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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