Soldier charged with having explosives at airport is released
Federal Magistrate Judge David Counts released Atwater on a $50,000 unsecured bond, court documents show. He was released into the custody of his supervisor at Fort Bragg, N.C., where the demolitions expert is stationed. Two members of the U.S. Army were in Midland to escort Atwater back to Fort Bragg, according to the office of U.S. Atty. Robert Pitman, who agreed to the conditions of the soldier’s release.
Atwater, who completed three tours in Afghanistan, was also ordered to possess no firearms or explosives, consume no alcohol and to submit to a mental health examination, court documents show. His travel is restricted to North Carolina and Texas.
Atwater is charged with trying to bring C-4 onto a airplane flying from Midland to Dallas, according to a criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for West Texas. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, if convicted.
Atwater, 30, had been visiting relatives in Midland and was returning to his home in Hope Mills, N.C., when the C-4 was found in a carry-on bag on Dec. 31.
Atwater said he was surprised to see the explosives in the bag, which he had brought home from Afghanistan in April, according to the criminal complaint filed with the court. He told investigators that the bag had been in his garage until he used it to carry children’s items on his trip to Texas.
On Dec. 24, Atwater was stopped at the Fayetteville, N.C., airport, where Transportation Security Administration screeners found a military smoke grenade in his bag, according to the criminal complaint filed with the court. The grenade was confiscated, and Atwater was allowed to continue to Texas with an admonition, according to the criminal complaint.
The TSA informed the FBI about the Fayetteville incident after Atwater had been detained and questioned in Midland.
“When I asked him about the Dec. 24 Fayetteville incident after TSA informed me of it, Atwater acknowledged that it had occurred, but said he had forgotten to mention it to us during our initial interview,” according to an FBI agent's account in the criminal complaint. There is no mention in the court documents of the C-4 explosives being seen in Fayetteville.
Atwater has been in custody since his arrest in Midland. No further court dates have been scheduled, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: This undated file photo provided by the Midland County Sheriff's Office via the Odessa American shows U.S. Army Sgt. Trey Scott Atwater. Credit: AP Photo/Midland County Sheriff's Office via the Odessa American, file