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Ga. man charged in postal incident



Date published: 1/18/2013

BY PORTSIA SMITH

Federal authorities have identified the man charged in connection with a bomb threat at a Spotsylvania County post office.

Michael Gene Chapman, 54, of Toccoa, Ga., was charged Thursday with one federal count of robbery of a post office.

According to Michael Romano of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Chapman is being held without bond at a federal facility. His initial court appearance was Thursday in Richmond, and he is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Police had earlier reported that the suspect was a local man. But according to Capt. Jeff Pearce of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office, the man arrested during the incident at the Thornburg Post Office is now described as "a disgruntled out-of-work truck driver in his mid-50s who was at the end of his rope and decided to do something desperate."

Around 9 a.m. Wednesday, Pearce said a postal worker called 911 and said a man came into the post office at 5314 Mudd Tavern Road, placed a package on the counter and said that he was there to rob the office.

Pearce said the man told the postal worker the box contained an explosive device armed with a mercury switch.

Within minutes, Spotsylvania deputies arrived and surrounded the building east of U.S. 1, and evacuated nearby homes and businesses as a precaution, he said.

The man surrendered about 15 minutes later and was taken into custody.

A bomb squad worked for more than 5 hours to investigate and dispose of the package and determined that it was a "hoax device which was incapable of detonating and contained no explosives," Pearce said.

The incident drew a host of law enforcement personnel to Thornburg. Besides the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office, other agencies responding were: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Quantico Marine EOD unit and the Virginia State Police Bomb Squad.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419
Email: psmith@fredericksburg.com