The Hinesville Police Department is investigating an incident that occurred on Veterans Day involving the manufacture and possession of an explosive device.
According to an incident report filed by Detective Tracey E. Howard, Atlantic Tire and Automotive owner James H. Spires called the HPD on Nov. 14 to report an incident that occurred at his business three days earlier.
According to the report, Spires had learned that one of his employees, Joseph Franklin Cartwright, allegedly used one of his company’s computers to obtain information about manufacturing an oxygen bomb. Between 10:30 a.m.-noon Nov. 11, Cartwright reportedly came into the open bay area of the tire shop where employees Shawn Sizemore and Christopher Haymons were working. He was carrying a large trash bag that he said he had used to make an explosive device. Sizemore reportedly told Cartwright to get out of the shop with the device, but as Cartwright was leaving the bay, the device detonated. Spires was not at the business at the time of the explosion.
According to the report, the force of the blast reportedly knocked Sizemore about 12 feet off the cooler that he was sitting on and knocked Haymons, who was working on a car at the time, to the floor.
Cartwright reportedly suffered a bloody nose and sustained burns on his head and body. His jacket and iPod also were damaged by the blast.
All three employees reported a temporary hearing loss that was replaced by a loud ringing noise.
“So far, no charges have been filed because the incident is still under investigation,” said Howard, who added that Cartwright no longer is employed with Atlantic Tire. “I’ve contacted other agencies, and until they get back with me — because I don’t know if this comes under their purview — there isn’t much more information that can be released.”
Howard said he was in the area of Atlantic Tire at the time of the explosion, in the vicinity of Kuwe Trail.
“I heard the explosion myself,” he said. “It was loud. Three retired soldiers who were with me at the time said the noise wasn’t consistent with anything the Army used. They said it didn’t sound like a tank firing or a grenade going off. And the noise was close by, not on Fort Stewart.”
In his report, Howard said he had tried to find the source of the blast but couldn’t. He later talked to Jennifer Lynn Dixon, manager of the Stop and Store at 1046 Kacey Drive. She reported hearing not only the Nov. 11 explosion but also a smaller explosion two weeks earlier.
When questioned, Sizemore reportedly told Howard that Cartwright had made a smaller, oxygen-acetylene bomb two weeks before the Veterans Day incident that he had detonated in the parking lot. Howard said he found evidence of a damaged taillight on a trailer parked near the site of the blast where residue from the exploded bag still was on the pavement.
Howard’s report stated that Sizemore had taken Cartwright to Liberty Regional Medical Center, where he said Cartwright told medical personnel that his injuries were caused by an exploding tire. The same explanation was given to Spires when he returned to work after lunch on the day of the incident. Howard said he only can speculate why Sizemore and Haymons supported Cartwright’s explanation and didn’t tell their employer sooner what really happened. The report noted that Sizemore said Cartwright was fascinated with making bombs.
Spires has turned over the computer believed to have been used by Cartwright to learn how to make the bomb and is cooperating with the investigation, but he refuses to make any public comments about the incident until the investigation is over. Howard said part of the reports he is waiting for would help determine what caused the second device to explode.
“We don’t know the chemical makeup of either bomb,” he explained, noting that the first, smaller bomb apparently was a controlled detonation. “Although there are certain gasses that can explode when they come into light, my experience has been that bombs typically have to be triggered by something.”
Howard said more information will be released to the public when the investigation is complete and a decision is made whether to file charges.