Escapee from Manatee mental health facility charged with making a bomb

MANATEE -- A 25-year-old man was charged with making a destructive device after he escaped from a mental health facility and deputies found a makeshift bomb at his residence, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies were called to Centerstone Florida, a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility formerly known as Manatee Glens, at 10:13 p.m. Saturday about an escaped patient being held under the Baker Act, according to a report. It was the fifth time James Harpe Jr., 25, had escaped from Centerstone, according to the report.

Mary Ruiz, CEO of Centerstone, said she couldn't comment on specific cases, but that they have never had a single patient leave five times against medical advice.

Deputies searched the area but could not locate Harpe. One deputy went to his home in the 3100 block of 69th Street East in Bradenton and was greeted by Harpe's brother.

The brother told the deputy Harpe was not there but invited him inside to look, according to the arrest report. He took the deputy to the backyard, where a shed functions as a workspace for their father and a living space for Harpe.

The brother told the deputy Harpe "had made a bunch of threats to make a bomb and blow himself up with it," and also threatened to bomb the neighborhood.

The deputy searched the shed and found a cylindrical metal object on Harpe's bed capped on both ends with red wires leading out to a black rectangular box. The brother told the deputy Harpe had talked about filling the device with gunpowder and using it as a means of suicide or to blow up the neighborhood.

The deputy called for backup and moved to the front of the house with the brother and called the father, according to the report. The father pulled up within an hour and said Harpe was now walking up the road toward the house.

When Harpe arrived, he was detained and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office bomb squad was called, the deputy said. The bomb squad asked Harpe what object he might have in his room that could be construed as an explosive device, and Harpe immediately began describing the metal cylinder.

Harpe said he filled the cylinder with gunpowder and provided other details of how he constructed the device.

Nearby houses were evacuated in early morning Sunday as the device was removed.

Harpe was charged with constructing a destructive device with the intent of bodily harm. He is being held in the Manatee County jail without bond.