A Glide man charged with bringing a bomb onto federal property in August was released from jail Tuesday morning after a judge ruled key evidence seized during a stop was illegally obtained.
A Veterans Affairs police officer found a homemade explosive fashioned from soda cans, duct tape and gunpowder in Joseph Eugene Campos’ backpack on the Roseburg VA Medical Center campus Aug. 21.
Campos, 20, was due to stand trial this week for manufacturing and possessing a destructive device. Instead, Douglas County Circuit Court Judge George Ambrosini ordered him released after finding the officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion to search the backpack.
The charges against Campos were not dismissed, though the trial was cancelled. Deputy District Attorney Jodee Jackson indicated prosecutors will evaluate the case in light of Ambrosini’s ruling. A hearing was set for Nov. 18. Jackson declined to comment on the ruling.
Defense attorney Erik Swallow, who moved to suppress the evidence, said he anticipates prosecutors will consider appealing, but that he expects Ambrosini’s decision to stand.
“I don’t see a basis for an appeal,” Swallow said. “I think the thoroughness of the court’s opinion and the clearness of the issues leave very little appeal for the Court of Appeals to do anything different.”
On Aug. 21, a man named Timothy Williams was playing guitar shirtless on the Roseburg VA campus when police approached him and asked him to leave. He agreed and asked VA Officer Jason Patrylo if he could grab his backpack approximately 50 feet away. Williams took a few steps toward the bag when Campos came out of a building and grabbed the bag, Patrylo testified Friday during a hearing on Swallow’s motion to suppress the evidence.
Patrylo said he was concerned about the backpack and asked both men for identification so he could see if either had warrants for their arrests. Campos did not have an ID, but gave his full name and birth date.
Patrylo asked the men if they had any weapons, and Campos said he had a small knife. The officer patted down Campos and found the knife. Patrylo then inquired about the backpack.
Campos consented to let Patrylo search the bag.
Patrylo reported finding a small tin container with fuses and balls of gunpowder.
He also found a device made of two soda cans with a tablespoon of gunpowder inside and a fuse that was held together with duct tape.
Patrylo said Campos told him it was something he had made for the Fourth of July.
Campos told Patrylo he forgot the device was in the backpack, and he was not concerned it would go off because it had to be lit to explode, according to court records.
In his motion to suppress the evidence, Swallow wrote that the search was conducted without a warrant or grounds for reasonable suspicion. Swallow also argued that Campos was pressured by police into letting the officer search his backpack.
“A reasonable person in Mr. Campos’ circumstances would not have felt free to leave,” Swallow wrote.
Ambrosini ruled that Campos’ consent was not lawfully obtained and that police did not have legal grounds for searching the backpack without a warrant.
Campos was released with conditions, including that he not possess fireworks and stay off the VA grounds.
Campos’ mother, Mindy Dowell, said her son comes from a long line of veterans and respects the VA.
“My dad and stepdad are vets. He loves them to death, and he would never do anything to harm anyone,” she said.
She said her son was just walking through the VA. “He’s a really good kid, he’s never been in trouble,” she said.
Dowell said Campos plans to get a job and get his life on track.
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or email@example.com.