Pipe bomb suspect has history of troubling behavior, police say

  • Local, state and federal police surrounded a house at 91 Pleasant St. in Holyoke on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2020, to investigate what they said were “reported incendiary devices.” GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2020 1:06:56 PM

HOLYOKE — The local man arrested Tuesday for allegedly keeping pipe bombs in his garage has a history of harassing behavior and violence, according to police.

Police arrested Gregory Bennett, 29, at 91 Pleasant St. on Tuesday on four counts of possession of explosives after Bennett’s brother tipped off law enforcement to the alleged homemade bombs in Bennett’s garage. Bennett was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges in Holyoke District Court Wednesday and is being held on $100,000 bail.

In court documents, police say Bennett was arrested two years ago for possessing ammunition without a firearm identification card and currently has charges pending after allegedly shining a laser pointer at vehicles.

In a narrative filed in court, Holyoke Police Officer Erik Martin said that Bennett’s brother contacted him Tuesday about his concerns over the possible explosive devices he found in the house Bennett shares with his other brother, father and a renter.

At the house, Martin said, he found black cylindrical objects with fuses inside a binoculars case in the garage. Because of his police training and military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, he recognized the devices as pipe bombs.

In a police interview, one of Bennett’s brothers said he believed his brother Gregory to be a dangerous person, according to a supplemental narrative filed by Detective Joseph Zurheide.

Zurheide wrote that Bennett has “a long history of harassing behaviors, violence, access to and possession of ammunition and commercial grade fireworks.” In a previous case, he said a victim was granted a harassment prevention order against Bennett.

“Bennett was alleged to have left spent shell casings on the victim’s porch with threatening and demeaning letters, and on one occasion was seen by a resident of the home lighting the back yard fence on fire,” Zurheide said.

Zurheide also said Northampton police had previously executed a search warrant on Bennett’s home and bedroom because of “similar harassing behaviors.” He said they found fireworks and green fuses similar to those inside the alleged bombs, as well as writing on the walls that “was manic in nature and included violent phrases.”

Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies were all at the scene Tuesday when police arrested Bennett after evacuating six nearby homes and blocking off part of Pleasant Street. The State Police Bomb Squad ultimately disposed of the explosive devices, state fire officials have said.

“During the search of Mr. G. Bennett’s room, in addition to the fireworks with the green fuses, a variety of different size handgun caliber spent shell casings were also located,” Zurheide wrote in his narrative.

Zurheide said that the “gunpowder” or propellant used in both handgun-caliber ammunition and fireworks can also be used in improvised explosive devices, noting that an X-ray by the State Police Bomb Squad showed a similar propellant in the explosives found Tuesday.

Bennett’s next court date is set for later this month, and law enforcement officials say the investigation into the case is ongoing.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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