Police were called to a Walmart in Tampa on Monday after a security guard took notice of a woman acting “suspiciously.” The guard says that he noticed the woman wandering “aimlessly” around the store for an hour or so, at times opening packages. Some of those packages included denatured alcohol, candles, and nails.
Then, says the security guard, the woman combined the ingredients in front of a child, effectively making a bomb.
Fortunately, the guard had already called the police and had recruited the help of an off-duty Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer. Just as the woman was allegedly trying to light the candle — which could have possibly resulted in the bomb detonating — the two men stopped her and detained her until police could arrive.
As authorities escorted the woman out to the patrol car, she allegedly spit at them.
The woman has been identified as 37-year-old Emily Stallard. She’s been charged with Attempted Arson of a Structure, Fire Bombing, Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, and Child Abuse and Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer. Her bond has been set at $8,500.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said that Stallard could have caused untold mayhem had she not been stopped.
“This woman had all the supplies she needed to cause mass destruction at her disposal. Had it not been for an alert off-duty law enforcement officer and a watchful security staff at Walmart, she may have followed through with her plans to cause an explosion inside the store,” he said.
Chronister also praised the security guard for being vigilant and taking notice when he saw something out of the ordinary. He encouraged regular citizens to do the same.
“I can’t stress enough: if you see something, say something. You don’t have to tackle a bad guy to be a hero. One phone call to law enforcement when you spot something or someone suspicious can ultimately save lives,” he said.
As Stallard’s case makes clear, making bombs, though crude, can be easily done with common items that can be found in your home or at your favorite retailer, and doesn’t require purchasing hard-to-find items or even items that will get you on a watch list. And crude, homemade bombs can be deadly: the bomb used in the Boston Marathon attack in 2013 was made of pressure cookers, random bits of metal such as nails, and black powder extracted from consumer-grade fireworks.