UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) - A Maryland man confessed to setting off “bottle bombs” in six incidents at five movie theaters in Virginia and Maryland, authorities said Monday.
Manuel Joyner, 20, of Bowie, has been charged in Prince George’s County and Fairfax County, Virginia, and faces charges in three other jurisdictions for incidents between March and May, authorities said a press conference in Largo, where one of the incidents occurred at the AMC Magic Johnson Capital Center theaters.
Mark Brady, spokesman for Prince George’s County Fire and Rescue, said Joyner confessed after his arrest Saturday.
A motive was unclear. A series of criminal charges and peace orders had been filed against Joyner in recent years in Prince George’s County related to stalking an ex-girlfriend. In one case he pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property and was sentenced to probation before judgment for smashing the windows of the ex-girlfriend’s car.
In court papers, the ex-girlfriend said Joyner refused to obey the court orders to leave her alone. In February 2013, seeking charges against him for violating a peace order, she suggested that he “seriously has mental issues that needs to be addressed before somebody gets hurt because of him.”
The attorney in that case did not return a phone message seeking comment. Calls to Joyner’s home went unanswered Monday.
Authorities say he detonated soda bottles at movie theaters in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties in Maryland and Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria in Virginia. The explosions panicked moviegoers and led to some evacuations, but caused no serious injuries.
Officials said the devices involved an acid and a base combined inside a sealed plastic bottle, causing it to explode.
Joyner, who signs his name as Manuel Joyner-Bell in court records, initially had his bail set at $50 million, but a judge later denied any bail at a hearing Monday in Prince George’s County.
Authorities said the severe bail is an indication of the seriousness of the crime.
“We don’t consider this, or anything like this, a prank,” said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor, noting that even if the bombs aren’t necessarily deadly, the stampede that they can set off in a crowded theater could be.
In Fairfax County, the charges include use or manufacture of a weapon of terrorism or a hoax device. The AMC theater in Tysons Corner was the only theater that was hit in two separate incidents on consecutive weekends last month. The theater chain offered a $25,000 reward for information resulting in the capture of a suspect.
In Anne Arundel County, Joyner appears to match the image of a person caught on surveillance cameras the night that the Cinemark Egyptian 24 multiplex in Hanover was targeted on March 10, the first of the bottle bomb incidents.