Bomb suspect may suffer from mental illness

TUPELO – The man accused of causing a bomb scare at a South Gloster Street bank on Monday has a history of mental illness, according to police.
Temetris Watkins, 49, of 405 Dry Creek Road was arrested Monday morning after a cab driver called police, saying a man put a package in his trunk that may have been an explosive device.
The cab driver parked at the BancorpSouth branch on South Gloster Street and Cliff Gookin Boulevard before alerting police about the possible explosive device.
Watkins has not been charged yet but was being held Tuesday in the Lee County Jail until he can undergo a mental evaluation.
Because of a mix-up with his jail paperwork, Watkins actually was released from jail Monday night. Police rearrested him late Tuesday afternoon.
Monday’s incident lasted nearly five hours, worrying residents and causing the closing of streets and businesses. It ended when a police bomb squad confirmed that although the package was suspicious, it did not contain an explosive device.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience to the public, but we had to make sure this was not a bomb,” said Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton. “We work to assure the safety of the public, and that’s what we did.”
Carleton said Watkins had personal items were in the box, although police couldn’t tell from X-raying the package.
A small explosion was reported about 2:20 p.m. after the bomb squad took the package from the car’s trunk to the back of the bank, but Carleton said the report was misleading.
Although it’s possible a boom was heard, it did not come from a device in the box, said bomb squad Commander Michael Lewellen.
“There was absolutely no explosive device in the box,” Lewellen said. “The sound people heard was a result of us opening the box, but nothing inside the box exploded.”
Even though he said he was about 90 percent sure at the time that there was no bomb in the box, Lewellen said that wasn’t enough to handle the situation differently.
“We are trained that if we are 99 percent sure that there is no bomb,” he said, “then we treat it like there is a 100 percent chance there is one.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal