A 25-year-old former military engineer allegedly set off fireworks in a Freetown forest Wednesday morning, and officials believe he was consolidating his fireworks arsenal to create a more powerful device.
“It appears he may have been trying to reconstitute them to make a bigger firework,” said Jennifer Mieth, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal.
At about 3:40 a.m., police Sergeant Edward Dwyer saw a vehicle with a mattress tied to its roof stopped on Chace Road in Freetown. The driver of the car — later identified as Derek Faisca-Ribeiro — told Dwyer he had pulled over to make sure that the bed was secure, according to a Freetown police statement posted on their Facebook page.
Roughly 20 minutes later, Freetown police received reports of an explosion and fire on Slab Bridge Road that was so powerful it shook a house 200 yards away. Freetown fire and police personnel responded to the scene, as did the State Police bomb squad, and they found a small fire, remnants of a mattress, and debris.
Police then began searching for Faisca-Ribeiro, 25, and found his car near his New Bedford home on Bates Street at around 6 a.m. Officers located the suspect near his home shortly after and arrested him.
Faisca-Ribiero was arraigned Wednesday at Bristol Superior Court in Fall River on charges including possessing substances used to create a destructive device, launching a destructive device, discharging an explosive device to injure property, police said. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf, and he is being held without bail. He will return to court Oct. 15 for a dangerousness hearing, said a spokeswoman for the court.
Faisca-Ribeiro has no criminal record, police said, but was discharged from the military in 2011 for misconduct.
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with the FBI and Freetown police were involved in the investigation, and the State Police bomb squad searched Faisca-Ribeiro’s house.
“Investigators found evidence in his home of opening the fireworks he bought out of state and reconstituting them into a larger homemade firework,” Mieth said.
Officials recovered materials related to the Freetown incident as well as military manuals on Improvised Explosive Devices, police said.
Police believe Faisca-Ribeiro — a former military combat engineer — acquired the manuals during his service.
Officials also believe Faisca-Ribeiro bought the fireworks legally in New Hampshire and then brought them to Massachusetts, where it is illegal to buy, possess, and use fireworks unless they are commercial grade and used by licensed technicians, Mieth said.
No injuries were reported from the fireworks that were set off, Mieth said.