Suspect Arrested for Dropping Pipe Bombs on Ohio River Tugs

man suspected of dropping pipe bombs on Ohion River tugs and barges
Barge on the Ohio River (Lisa Andres photo)

Published Oct 29, 2021 3:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

After a rash of incidents of bombs being found aboard tugs operating on the Ohio River, federal agents arrested an Ohio man on October 27. The man is suspected of assembling homemade pipe bombs and dropping them from bridges over the river onto tugboats and barges. The devices did not detonate and no one was injured.

The first incident took place on October 21 when West Virginia State Police were called to a barge carrying gravel on the river near Marietta, Ohio. The sheriff told local media that the crew operating the barge “spotted something that didn’t look right to them,” and called the police. The Ohio River was closed to traffic in the area while a bomb squad was called to remove and dismantle the device. 

The state police, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), were all investigating the first incident when a second call came in on October 25. Local media reports said that two possible explosive devices had been found on a tugboat also on the Ohio River near mile markets 170 to 174. The river was again closed while the devices were removed.

The following day, local media reported a third possible incident also on the river this time near Muskingum Island. Again, a tugboat moving barges on the river reported a suspicious device which alternately was described as a possible pipe bomb or a hoax device. 

Nathaniel Blayn Becker, age 42, of Marietta, Ohio, was taken into customer and was charged on October 28 in a federal criminal complaint with possession of “unregistered destructive devices.” The criminal complaint alleges that Becker purchased pipes and other relevant components of the suspected devices from a big box home improvements retailer Lowe’s store in Marietta on four separate occasions.

“The cooperation of Lowe’s was instrumental in Becker’s arrest and I thank them for their assistance,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “I commend the many law enforcement agencies for their swift investigation leading to Becker’s arrest.”

The ATF is conducting the investigation with assistance from the FBI, the West Virginia State Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Parkersburg Police Department, the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, and the Washington County, Ohio, Police Department.


Top image: Lisa Andres / CC BY 2.0