Former Pennsylvania Police Officer Sentenced for Explosives

  • June 23, 2008

A federal judge in Pennsylvania sentenced a former Pittsburgh police officer to 52 months in federal prison for possessing an unregistered improvised destructive device at his home.

The judge sentenced Paul Anthony Palmer Jr., 39, on June 20, 2008, after Palmer pleaded guilty to the charge. 

Palmer's left arm was amputated below the elbow due to injuries sustained from an explosion in his Oakdale home in May 2007. Palmer was manufacturing explosives inside his trailer when investigators believe static electricity sparked the explosion. When North Fayette police officers arrived at the scene of the blast they found Palmer sitting outside the home with several wounds, including burns to his upper torso and critical injuries to his left hand.

Authorities believe that Palmer is linked to the white supremacist group Aryan Nations. During a search of Palmer's home, investigators discovered 15 white supremacist books, two white supremacist flags, and bomb-making components, including black powder, cardboard tubes, red phosphorous and a green pyrotechnic fuse that was reportedly hidden in the padding of an armchair. 

Palmer claimed to law enforcement that he was creating "home-made" M-80s to blow up pumpkins in his yard, not to hurt anybody. The assistant U.S. attorney pointed out at the hearing that the devices Palmer was constructing included metallic BBs, which are not normally used simply to blow up inanimate objects, but to cause shrapnel injury to flesh.

The judge reduced the possible 63 month sentence down to 52 months, citing the fact that Palmer lost part of his arm due to his own actions, stating, "So there's already been some punishment imposed, not by the court, but by himself." 

Palmer, who had been a police officer in Pittsburgh for over 10 years, was previously convicted of aggravated assault in 2006 due to a 2003 road rage incident. Palmer fired seven bullets at a tractor-trailer on the interstate following a minor traffic incident with the driver. Palmer, who was off-duty at the time, was sentenced to time served plus three years' probation for that incident.

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