By William Moore
TUPELO – A Tupelo man is facing life behind bars after allegedly setting off an explosive at Walmart early Sunday morning.
Marshall W. Leonard, 61, of Tupelo, was arrested and will be charged placing an explosive device. Mississippi Code 97-37-25 carries up to life in prison if convicted.
Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said a vehicle pulled up to the night entrance of the North Gloster Walmart around 1:30 a.m.
“A white male got out, lit the package and threw it in the vestibule,” Aguirre said. “There was an employee on break, and the suspect told him, ‘You better run.’
“The employee did run and was away from harm when the package went off. It wasn’t a large explosion. It didn’t cause a lot of damage to the store.”
No one was injured in the incident. The remnants of the homemade explosive device have been sent to the crime lab for further examination.
Leonard was a strong supporter of the Mississippi flag and railed against anyone who wanted it pulled because it contained the Confederate battle flag. In the past, he spoke out against Walmart when the retail giant decided to stop selling items in its stores that contained the Confederate battle flag.
Last Wednesday, Leonard posted threats on the Daily Journal Facebook page.
“Journal corporate, you are on final warning,” he wrote Oct. 28. “You are part of the problem. As a result of this, y’all are going down, along with Walmart, WTVA, Reeds department store, and all the rest of the anti-American crooks. I’m not kidding. No messing around anymore!”
It was the state flag that led to his arrest. An officer in the area spotted a small silver car with a huge Mississippi flag sticking up through the sun roof run the red light in front of Walmart.
“The officer pulled him over for the traffic violation, but when the calls started coming in, we quickly figured out we needed to hang on to this suspect,” Aguirre said. “We still have some more interviews to do and still need to search his car before we take him in front of a judge Tuesday.”
Officials are still waiting to get details of Leonard’s prior criminal history in Illinois and Wisconsin.