ERWIN — With Unicoi County students out of school and more time on their hands, acts of summertime vandalism are not all that uncommon, according to Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department Chief Investigator Ronnie Adkins.
But an incident that occurred several days ago particularly caught the attention of local authorities, and officials are continuing the investigation into what Adkins said was much more than the “run-of-the-mill” mailbox vandalism.
Adkins said officers were called out to a residence on Rock Creek Road on Sunday, following up on a vandalism that had apparently occurred early that morning. According to the incident report, Pritchard Metcalf was contacted by a neighbor around 1 a.m. Sunday morning and told Metcalf that a “loud boom” had just been heard at his home. Metcalf returned home to “find his mailbox in pieces,” the report states.
The report states Metcalf’s neighbor found pieces of the mailbox in his yard, leading Metcalf to believe that it had been “blown up.” Adkins said pieces of shrapnel were found 75 to 100 feet from where Metcalf’s mailbox once was. Adkins said it is this that makes the incident stand out more than typical mailbox vandalism incidents — the force with which the mailbox was blown apart.
“There could have been physical harm had somebody been in the area when it went off,” Adkins said.
Adkins said it appears an explosive device that was constructed out of fireworks was placed in Metcalf’s mailbox. Adkins said fireworks-type material was found around the site. He said it also appears the device was manufactured to cause a “severe blast.”
Pieces of Metcalf’s mailbox were blown across the road, and the impact of shrapnel was visible on nearby trees, Adkins said. Evidence collected from the scene does not point to any particular person or group, Adkins said.
“Right now, it’s still an open case, and we’re trying to gather as many leads as we can,” he said.
Adkins said due to the time at which the incident occurred, neighbors did not see anyone or vehicles in the area at the time of the explosion. He said the manner in which the device was constructed indicates that is how the perpetrators wanted it.
“Obviously, we don’t know for sure, but we feel like it had a fuse that was lit to give them enough time to get away,” Adkins said.
It also appears that it was an act of random vandalism, rather than a person or persons targeting Metcalf, Adkins said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 743-1861 or 743-1850.