By Lenora Carver
Staff Writer" 

Impact Felt After ‘Bomb Threat


Last updated ERROR at ERROR

David Gearing

Pisgah Forest resident David Joseph Gearing faces a felony charge of making a false bomb threat Monday. The incident led to a number of Brevard businesses to be evacuated and traffic to be disrupted for several hours.

As of Wednesday, the 51-year-old Gearing, whose bond was set at $50,000, remained in the Transylvania County Detention Center.

Just after 10 a.m. on Monday, Gearing entered the Brevard Police Department's lobby and attempted to enter a secured doorway, according to Police Chief Phil Harris. It was at this point a police department dispatcher asked Gearing if he needed assistance. Gearing told the dispatcher he wanted to speak to a supervisor.

"We have not dealt with Mr. Gearing in the past," said Harris.

Gearing was told by the dispatcher that a supervisor had been called and would be there in a few minutes.

"For the next six to seven minutes he seemed uneasy," said Harris. "He was almost talking nonsensical…and he definitely appeared to be agitated."

Harris said before the supervisor arrived, Gearing walked out to his white Buick, looked under the vehicle and then got into it.

Lt. Wayne Newton, the supervisor on duty, watched Gearing drive out of the parking lot.

"(Newton) turned around and followed the man," said Harris.

Gearing began to drive up and down side streets off Caldwell Street, Harris said.

"(Gearing) was driving erratically," he said.

Newton turned his police car lights on, but Gearing would not stop, Harris said.

Gearing also committed a traffic violation by driving left of center before police finally stopped him on College Station Drive, Harris said.

Newton and another officer approached Gearing's vehicle and asked for his identification.

While doing a background check, Newton asked Gearing why he left the police department.

"Gearing said, ‘I decided to take it to the feds,'" said Harris.

At this point, the police officers learned Gearing had an outstanding warrant from Madison County for failing to appear in court on a charge of resisting an officer. Gearing was placed in custody.

"As a routine, we asked if there was anything in the vehicle that would harm us," said Harris.

Harris said Gearing mentioned a firearm in the trunk.

The officers checked the trunk, found the firearm and asked Gearing again if there was anything else dangerous in the vehicle. Gearing then mentioned a bomb, Harris said.

Harris said officers backed away from the vehicle and asked Gearing if there really was a bomb in the vehicle.

"After about a minute or so, he said there wasn't a bomb," said Harris.

When an officer began questioning Gearing again, he requested to speak to another officer. Gearing, Harris said, went back and forth for several minutes, between saying there was and wasn't a bomb in the vehicle. His final statement was there was a bomb, and then he "clammed up," said Harris.

The police department then contacted the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the Hendersonville Bomb Squad.

Around 11:15 a.m., police began evacuating businesses and homeowners in a 300-yard radius around the car.

This included the evacuation of Sonic, the First United Methodist Church, College Station Plaza, and several nearby homes and apartments. Harris said that while he understood people may have become frustrated over the evacuation and redirection of traffic, he said they only did it to keep citizens safe.

"The safety of the public is our primary responsibility," said Harris. "While it is unfortunate that one person with one comment can disrupt, our response is to try and reestablish a safe environment for our public."

After the SBI and bomb squad arrived on the scene, a robot was brought in to search the car.

A backpack, what appeared to be a gallon water jug with liquid, two other containers with liquids and a bag containing a white powdery substance were taken from the vehicle for further examination.

Harris said it was determined there probably was not a bomb in the vehicle, but officials could not verify the liquids and powder were not hazardous substances.

Since the bomb threat was no longer apparent, the 300-yard evacuation was slightly eased and a few people were allowed back in their businesses and homes.

Harris said the regional Hazardous Materials Team from Asheville was then contacted.

"We then gathered samples over the next few hours and had them analyzed," said Harris.

Harris said the three liquid substances found were water, anti-freeze and oil. The powder was baby powder.

"There was no bomb and nothing to make a bomb out of in the vehicle," said Harris.

The bomb threat and evacuation were lifted around 6:30 p.m.

Brevard police also charged Gearing with failing to heed lights and a siren, and driving left of center.

Harris said it has been confirmed that Gearing did not have any terrorist ties or was making the bomb threat as a form of terrorism. When asked if Gearing had a history of mental problems, Harris declined to comment.

Gearing is continuing to be investigated by the SBI and the N.C. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Harris said it was possible Gearing could face further charges from these agencies.

"In all senses, (Monday) was probably a best-case scenario," said Harris.

He said that while lives were disrupted, thankfully the bomb threat was false and nothing occurred.

"There is really not a good way to scale down concern about a bomb threat," said Harris.

Harris said the state or federal government would pay for the cost of the bomb squad while the police department would pay the hourly wages for the officers called in to assist.

"We have to respond in a way where we can deal with the unknown, protect people and discover the truth like we did (Monday)," said Harris.

It was just a shame, he said, that one individual's words could affect so many lives and businesses.


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