Explosive evacuates high school

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Raymond Charles Smalley: 18-year-old senior was arrested after the device was found in his bookbag at Westside High School.

Police arrested an 18-year-old Westside High School senior Wednesday after a homemade explosive device was discovered in his bookbag.

After hours of interviews and testing of the device, Richmond County authorities charged Raymond Charles Smalley, 18, of the 2600 block of Smith Creek Road, with possession of an explosive or destructive device with intent to kill, injure or intimidate individuals or destroy public buildings, possession of a weapon on school property and carrying a concealed weapon.

The device - a can of waterproofer with a fuse inserted in the top - was found when school Principal Tim Spivey searched Mr. Smalley's bookbag.

The discovery prompted officials to evacuate the school shortly before 8:30 a.m. Students and faculty waited in the nearby Redwing Rollerway parking lot as bomb squad personnel searched the rest of the school.

Mr. Smalley's bookbag was searched after a teacher said she saw him put a portable video game system into it. School system policy forbids video game systems on campus.

Maj. Ken Autry said investigators spent the afternoon interviewing the friends and family of Mr. Smalley to "take a step beyond" the student's original statement.

He said the young man claimed he found the bottle while cleaning up his house and brought it to detonate once class was out.

The device was later examined by the bomb squad, which said it could have detonated, according to a statement released by the sheriff's office.

"The bomb techs looked at it and said it was capable of exploding because it only had to be lit, and I understand that he had a lighter in his pocket," Maj. Autry said.

"Obviously the situation has been diffused but we do have to look deeper into this incident."

He said that it does not appear that anyone knew Mr. Smalley was carrying the device nor was anyone else involved.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.