Monday, May 19, 2014
Cops: Bristol Twp man had bomb making materials, books in home
Posted: Monday, May 19, 2014
Bristol Township police say they found evidence of a working chemical bomb lab in the home of a 30-year-old Levittown man after he allegedly detonated an explosive in his fireplace, seriously damaging the ranch home Monday.
Homeowner Thomas Piscione — who told police he makes bombs as a hobby — wasn't injured, but his hair was singed and soot covered his face, police said. As a precaution, he was examined at Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol Township and medically cleared.
"He was extremely lucky — extremely lucky," Bristol Township Lt. Terry Hughes said.
No one else was home at the time of the explosion and subsequent fire in the first block of Midwood Lane shortly after 1 a.m. Online records showed Piscione has lived in the three-bedroom home since 2009.
Piscione initially claimed a propane tank exploded, according to police. But Levittown 2 Fire Chief Ralph Gumbert, whose fire company responded, found what he believed were “suspicious” circumstances. The probable cause affidavit said there were indications that Piscione was experimenting with bomb-making materials.
Gumbert reported finding a working lab in a back bedroom, complete with materials that could be used to make bombs. Those materials included PVC pipe, galvanized steel pipes and ball bearings, along with other materials and chemicals, police said.
Police didn't find any completed bombs or explosive devices, Hughes said.
After a preliminary police investigation, officials determined the explosion occurred after ammonium nitrate was heated in the home’s fireplace. The brick fireplace was “blown apart” and all the windows on three sides of the ranch-style home were blown out, police said.
The blast also caused drywall nails to “pop” and knocked items off shelves in parts of the house. A portion of the ceiling collapsed, a couch was burned and there was evidence of fire and smoke throughout the living room, according to the affidavit.
Piscione claimed the explosion was an accident, Hughes said. He also told police he recently purchased exploding targets and admitted detonating one in the fireplace, court documents said. Police found books on how to make bombs as well as books about serial killers in the home.
Piscione was arraigned before Bristol Township District Judge Robert Wagner Jr. on charges of felony risking a catastrophe and ungraded reckless endangerment. He was sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $1 million bail.
Bristol Township police executed a search warrant at Piscione's home Monday afternoon and recovered items including firearms, Hughes said.
Next door neighbor Chris Simmons was surprised to learn that his neighbor allegedly set off an explosion. He didn't hear anything Monday morning.
Simmons described Piscione as quiet; a hello-goodbye-kind of neighbor.
"He just keeps to himself," he said. "I've been here four years, and I've only seen him ten times."