An Iowa City man has been charged with terrorism after police said he left a backpack containing incendiary materials and a connected fuse at the Guidelink Center on Tuesday, leading to the evacuation of that building and, later, a downtown apartment complex.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release Wednesday afternoon stating that the Nezzy Underscore had arrested and charged Conway, 23, with possession of an incendiary or explosive device, a Class C felony, and an open warrant for 4th degree criminal mischief for failing to compliance with appearing in an unrelated incident. Conway is also indicted by the University of Iowa Police Department for terrorism, a Class B felony, and possession of an incendiary or explosive device from a related investigation.
A criminal complaint filed by the UI Police Department on Wednesday alleges that police were called to the College of Public Health at 9:16 a.m. Tuesday for a potentially incendiary device plugged into an external electrical outlet that appeared to have been singed from which someone was attempting it on fire.
The device was secured with a bright yellow or green tape, the same one that was later found in a backpack left at the Guidelink Center and at Conway’s apartment. Above the outlet on the wall was the word “HELP” written with what appeared to be soot or ash.
Police say a notebook was found with the following statement: “Use incendiary bombs to destroy the electrical box at the courthouse.” They say it was signed with Conway’s name.
The Johnson County Metro Bomb Squad confirmed that the College of Public Health device produced an “incendiary response, but did not generate enough heat to burn through the rubber hose that was part of the device.”
On Tuesday, Iowa City police responded to the GuideLink Center on Southgate Avenue after they said Conway entered the building and began physically assaulting employees.
The release said that when officers arrived on the scene, the suspect was still belligerent with law enforcement officers. After the suspect was apprehended, he was taken to hospital for examination, but a backpack with suspicious contents was left behind at the scene.
An indictment alleges that law enforcement officials were told that Conway initially possessed a machete, but that Guidelink Center employees were eventually able to obtain it. The complaint said Conway was taken to hospital for self-inflicted injuries.
The complaint said information obtained by police indicated that Conway had been in contact with a former teacher and told them that if the teacher and his mother did not find him a romantic partner within 30 days, he would take his own life. He also repeatedly stated that hurting other people and using explosives were part of his “suicide plan.”
The Guidelink Center was evacuated after police responded and Southgate Avenue was closed to traffic when multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Johnson County Metro Bomb Team, responded and safely removed the suspicious package. According to the release, it contained incendiary materials with a fuse attached.
Later that day, Iowa City Public Safety’s social media announced that portions of East Court Street and South Dubuque Street were shutting, without explanation. The press release confirmed that law enforcement officers issued a warrant for Conway’s residence at the Capitol House Apartments at 320 S. Dubuque St.
Press-Citizen reporters saw members of a tactical team being lifted to a third-floor apartment on the southwest side of the building and breaking the window. The police then remained on the scene for several hours.
The press release said items were found in the home that matched the incendiary materials found at the GuideLink Center.
The apartment complex, a six-storey building housing 81 affordable housing for low-income seniors, was partially evacuated as police executed the search warrant. Residents were provided water at the Hyatt Place Hotel down the street by the American Red Cross and Johnson County Public Health.
All residents of the apartment complex were later let back into the building.
Conway legally changed his name from Oskar Bendixon Holmes in December.
The release said additional charges are expected by Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa City Police Department. A copy of the criminal complaints will be posted on our website on Thursday morning.
Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel told the Press-Citizen on Tuesday at the GuideLink Center site that Conway assaulted an officer during the incident.
The GuideLink Center was closed until Wednesday morning.
Conway is being held in Johnson County Jail on a $25,000 bond.
George Shillcock is the local government and development reporter for the Press-Citizen, which covers Iowa City and Johnson County. He can be reached at (515) 350-6307, [email protected] and on Twitter @ShillcockGeorge