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Man charged with having weapons of mass destruction in Pennsylvania

Officials said the investigation uncovered powerful explosives in what police are calling a "home lab."

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A Pennsylvania man is in custody and charged with multiple felonies, including possessing weapons of mass destruction, after a nine-hour standoff with police Wednesday.

FBI, Homeland Security involved in investigation

Multiple state and federal agencies, which included the FBI, Homeland Security and the Middletown Bureau of Police, were involved in the arrest in Middletown about 20 minutes outside of the state capital of Harrisburg.

According to Middletown Public Safety Director William Baldwin, the investigation, which started around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, uncovered powerful explosives in what police are calling a "home lab."

An arresting officer stated that Homeland Security was investigating glassware that had been shipped to the suspect's home.

The Pennsylvania State Police's explosive unit was called in and the nearby Reading police brought in its own bomb squad and bomb containment chamber. Residents in surrounding homes were evacuated.

"A lot of men and women were out here working diligently to protect this community. That's how serious this situation was," Baldwin said.

Suspect arrested

The suspect has been identified as Joseph McClure, 44. He is charged with the following:

  • Possession or manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Risking catastrophe.
  • Reckless endangerment.

McClure is being held at the Dauphin County Prison. Bail was denied.

Suspect: Joseph McClure.
WGAL
Suspect: Joseph McClure.

Court documents

Sister station WGAL obtained court documents for the case. Those documents state that the investigation centered on an apartment in Middletown.

The documents allege that McClure was in possession of numerous explosive substances, chemical compounds and lab equipment capable of producing explosives. The documents also state that materials could be found in military-grade explosives.

A police affidavit says McClure admitted to having and manufacturing materials that could be used to make explosives, some of which have the ability to create a plastic explosive such as Semtex. He also confessed to having a home laboratory with no formal training.

Video above: Bomb squad vehicle approaching the home of Joseph McClure

Additionally, McClure is alleged to have connected a rudimentary ventilation system to his apartment, which had anything gone wrong, would have placed a lot of people in danger.

Residents were out of homes for hours

The incident prompted the Middletown Borough Police Department to evacuate almost all of the homes and businesses on North Union Street, where McClure lived, Wednesday afternoon. Residents were then asked to seek shelter at the Middletown Borough MCSO building. Roads were also closed to pedestrians and cars for several hours.

Middletown Mayor James Curry thanked law enforcement and special units for the work.

"What the public needs to understand is that while complaints were being lodged. You have all these people working on the situation at hand and, in fact, questioning the suspect at the time," Curry said.