October 30, 2020
Two men are facing criminal charges after they were caught driving a van allegedly filled with illegal explosives into Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
Police arrested Brian Larue, the driver, and Eric Murray, the passenger, after stopping the van along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The van allegedly contained explosives and tools commonly used to dismantle and steal money from ATM machines.
The van was pulled after two nights of civil unrest sparked by the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. in West Philly. A citywide curfew was in effect at the time the van was stopped.
Larue, 41, of Camden, Delaware, and Murray, 27, of Philadelphia, have each been charged with three felonies – possession of weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy and risking a catastrophe – and several misdemeanors, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Thursday night.
Initial media reports had indicated the van had been found abandoned, but Shapiro said police pursued the van after responding to a commercial burglary alarm near City Avenue.
Police observed the van among a group of 10 to 15 vehicles that had gathered in the parking lot of the Courtyard by Marriott hotel located at 4100 Presidential Blvd., Shapiro said. The group left the hotel after police arrived.
Police pursued the convoy along I-76 after watching the vehicles unsuccessfully attempt to ram a Target parking lot barricade at 4000 Monument Road, Shapiro said. During the pursuit, Larue allegedly exited the van and pulled off tape that had been covering its license plate.
After stopping the van near 18th Street and the Parkway, police allegedly found quarter and half sticks of dynamite, a handheld propane tank, a Taser and some machetes. They also found various tools, including electric drills and bolt cutters.
"Possessing illegal explosive devices presents great danger to the general public, first responders and all citizens alike," said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in Charge of the Philadelphia division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Several ATMs have been blown up in Philadelphia amid the civil unrest. There have been peaceful protests denouncing police brutality and racial injustice, but there also has been looting and vandalism.
Attorney General Shapiro criticized Larue and Murray for using the demonstrations as cover for illegal activity.
"These individuals who have been charged today tried to use a message of justice to provide cover for their own gain," Shapiro said. "This is an incredibly challenging time for communities in Philadelphia, across Southeast Pennsylvania, and around the country. We will not allow criminals to hijack, and take advantage of, lawful protests as an opportunity to sow chaos."