William Edward Gillis, 40, of Lamkin Road, was charged with criminal trespass and theft of services, according to Harlem Police Department Chief Gary Jones.
Jones said the owner of property leased to Providence Presbyterian Church at 709 W. Milledgeville Road called police just after 11 a.m. after he discovered a blue plastic coffee can under the church sign near the road. A wire was coming out of a hole and was taped to the side of the can. The cord ran several feet to a nearby electrical plug.
“All the criteria (for an incendiary device were) there,” Jones said. “We certainly weren’t going to tamper with it.”
Traffic was diverted away from the area for about an hour.
Jones said the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad was called in and tried to detonate the device. Authorities had information that something like a celphone might have been inside the can, but none of the residents who live in mobile homes behind the church knew about it.
As the bomb squad tried to detonate the can a third time, Jones said, Gillis called authorities and told them his cellphone was inside the can. Gillis, who lives behind the church, said he doesn’t have electricity and was charging his phone. He went with authorities and opened the can, revealing his phone.
Gillis was being held in the Columbia County Detention Center on Tuesday on a $1,520 bond, according to jail records.