A U.S. Army sergeant in Dawson County has been arrested and charged by local authorities for allegedly stealing over a dozen explosive devices from the Camp Merrill U.S. Army Training Facility in Lumpkin County.
Sgt. Jesse Gray Phillips, 23, of Dawsonville, was arrested Thursday, Sept. 3 after investigators with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Crime Suppression Unit received an anonymous tip, leading them to find multiple illegal explosive devices, firearms and narcotics in Phillips’ vehicle and residence.
According to a statement from Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson, investigators conducted a traffic stop on Phillips’ vehicle near his home on Stegall Place in Dawson County on Thursday, Sept. 3, and located two Army-issued smoke grenades and a handgun.
A subsequent search of Phillips’ home led to the discovery of 15 “simulator projectile ground burst M115” devices, four “igniter time blasting fuses,” an additional smoke grenade and two rifles, Johnson said.
The “simulator projectile ground burst M115” is a device that reportedly simulates battle noises and explosions caused by artillery shelling, and is used for military combat training and troop maneuvers, according to Johnson.
"These items are destructive devices and can be extremely dangerous if mishandled," he said.
Johnson said that at this point in their investigation they have found no indication that Phillips was planning to use the devices in any kind of attack. But authorities are investigating whether the stolen devices were meant to be sold on the black market, he said.
All three firearms are believed to be purchased legally and owned by Phillips.
Phillips was also found in possession of eight hydrocodone pills, Johnson said, along with packages of Clomiphene, a drug reportedly used to treat infertility in women, and Tamoxifen, a drug that is reportedly used to treat or prevent breast cancer.
Following the search of his residence, Phillips was arrested and charged with possession of an explosive device, possession of a controlled substance and possession of dangerous drugs.
Phillips was booked into the Dawson County Detention Center late on Thursday but was later released under a bond of $25,000.
Attempts to reach Phillips for comment were unsuccessful as of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
Local authorities will be working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division to conclude this case, Johnson said.
This story will be updated.