A Florida man who was seen running away from a far-right Oath Keepers rally was arrested on Friday after authorities found him in possession of a homemade explosive. Law enforcement suggested he may have some kind of connection to the left-wing antifa movement, but his political affiliations were not yet proven, nor was any potential motive.
Garrett Smith, 22, was charged with loitering and making and possessing a destructive device, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. As of Friday he had not yet posted a $300,000 bond.
A subsequent search of Smith’s house turned up “hand-style grenades and a pipe explosive.” An affidavit detailing Smith’s arrest cited “Antifa/anti gov/viol extrem” as possible aggravating or mitigating factors in his alleged criminal activity.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office claimed symbols tied to the loosely affiliated movement were found on some of Smith’s possessions, but that officials were continuing to investigate his possible political ties and had not yet made a concrete determination.
“He’s an odd duck, that’s for sure,” Dennis Fuller, who helps run a religious retreat in Tennessee called Young Life that Smith attended in 2019, told The Daily Beast.
Fuller said he hasn’t spoken to Smith in two years, and that he would not have predicted his alleged bomb-making, but that Smith “just doesn’t think like everyone else.
“I’ve been working with college kids for 20 years. He just had an odd way about him,” Fuller said.
The rally on Thursday night took place outside of Pinellas County Jail on behalf of alleged Capitol rioter Jeremy Brown, an Oath Keeper who was arrested last year for participating in the insurrection.
An FBI search warrant published in October revealed that Brown—a former Green Beret—may have also accidentally incriminated himself for illegally stockpiling weapons when he posted his home for sale on Zillow. One interior photo showed a whiteboard that detailed his alleged stash, including “flash bangs” he was not authorized to possess.
Brown has downplayed his involvement in the Capitol uprising. “We weren’t even anywhere close to the Capitol when we found out the Capitol got breached,” he told WFLA in October. “So, the idea the Oath Keepers organized some sort of conspiracy? We were there for security and some of them made the mistake of getting caught up in the moment.” (In fact, over a dozen members of the extremist group have been charged with offenses including just that—conspiracy—in connection with the riot.)
Authorities are still probing Smith’s proximity to this week’s rally, which was cleared and searched after law enforcement found his explosive.
“Smith is what we call a sleeper, and these are the most concerning individuals because there are no opportunities to intervene and thwart their criminal activity before they actually act,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times.