Sheriff provides details of Washington shopping center incident

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, January 11, 2024

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Cameron Lee Smith, 40, of Washington, has been identified as the suspect arrested by Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday night for possession of weapons of mass destruction. 

Smith was arrested in the Food Lion Parking Lot at the Washington Corners Shopping Center, off John Small Avenue. An investigator with the sheriff’s office found Smith slumped over in a vehicle and observed drug paraphernalia in plain sight, according to reports from the sheriff’s office. Upon further inspection, the investigator found two homemade grenades. 

One grenade appeared to be military-style made of putty and ball-bearing material that is similar to what is used in BB guns. A second grenade with a clacker, or switch was found and resembled those used in World War I and II, Beaufort County Sheriff Scott Hammonds described. 

At this time, investigators are working to determine if Smith was a “hobbyist or radical,” Hammonds explained during a press briefing on Thursday afternoon.  

Historic grenades can be sold at thrift stores or yard sales, Hammonds said, but special licenses and permits are required. 

“Sellers need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) or Federal Explosives License (FEL) while buyers need a Federal Explosives Permit (FEP),” according to Aero Corner, an aircraft education digital resource. 

There is no threat to the public, Hammonds stated. Smith has received simple charges in the past, but “none based on any kind of terrorism or threat to the public or trying to harm anyone else,” Hammonds said. “At this time, we have no indication that he was to do any harm to anyone.”  

Hammonds speculated about Smith’s mindset based on information provided by Smith. 

“There’s people who believe that the government would come in and interfere with their way of life. This is the ways they act out to protect themselves. They have at least formulated ways of thinking, and they think they’re proactive about it. That they are going to defend what’s theirs,” Hammonds said, “In some ways, I feel like this was some of what Mr. Smith was thinking – maybe – that his rights were being hindered.” 

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies searched Smith’s residence in Washington. As of 1 p.m. on Thursday, law enforcement agencies were still processing evidence. 

Smith was charged with Possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Carrying a Concealed Gun. Smith is confined to the Beaufort County Detention Center under No Bond. 

The investigation is ongoing and more charges may be forthcoming. 

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is assisting BCSO with the case.