“Can you show up down at the Conway residence? We’ve got a problem. We’ve got a car bombing.”
That’s what Greenfield, New Hampshire, Police Chief Brian Giammarino recalled being told early on the morning of Dec. 1, 2018. The Conway family had heard a loud bang early in the morning, and found the Jeep outside their home damaged in what looked a hell of a lot like an explosion.
In an interview, Giammarino told The Daily Beast that, at first, he couldn’t believe it. The quiet town of roughly 1,850 residents was hardly a hotbed of crime, much less explosive attacks. But it didn’t take long to find out that they had a bombing on their hands.
“When we got there, it was clearly some type of bomb device and it was a 75-foot radius of debris. It had rocked that car,” Giammarino said, adding that local police called the New Hampshire state police bomb unit, worried there might be a second explosive device in play.
Fortunately, there wasn’t one. But there was the open question of why on earth someone would want to bomb the car of an unassuming rural New Hampshire family. A search warrant unsealed by federal prosecutors late last month suggests the answer was a simple one: a neighbor was angry about the noise they were making.
According to the feds, who took over the inquiry into the bizarre situation from local cops, the Conway family told police that their neighbor, Alex Arsenault, had “issues” with the Conway boys riding their four-wheeler by the house.
“Alex wasn’t really on our radar,” Giammarino cautioned in an interview. But Arsenault, the FBI wrote in an affidavit dated Feb. 6, 2019, long had issues with what he believed was excessively noisy behavior by his neighbors. Local police said he “had made multiple complaints in the past regarding loud noises from vehicles revving the engines in front of his house, low-flying aircraft, nearby gunfire, as well as four wheeler and snowmobile traffic.”
Law enforcement officials interviewed Arsenault shortly after the bombing. According to the affidavit, he denied having issues with his neighbors, but confirmed to police that he “gets annoyed when people ride by his house on the snowmobile trail.” In the course of the interview, investigators noticed duct tape on his walls that they believed was “consistent in appearance with pieces of duct tape recovered in and around the damaged vehicle.”
The investigation apparently got a jumpstart when, just a few weeks after the Conways’ Jeep blew up, a “concerned individual” called an FBI tip line and told agents Arsenault “was acquiring Tannerite and was interested in making miniature explosives.” The tipster claimed Arsenault “wanted to acquire 100 cans of lighter fluid to make small explosions in his backyard and post videos of the explosions to YouTube.”
Tannerite is a binary explosive popular with firearms enthusiasts for its ability to explode when hit with gunfire. Since it’s often illegal to sell the finished explosive compound, retailers sell it in kit form, which allows customers to mix the binary ingredients that make up the explosive.
According to court records, Arsenault allegedly bought and sold at least 13 “explosive-related products” on eBay. He also allegedly purchased material similar to Tannerite on another website, ammoniumnitrateforsale.com. And a month after the alleged car bombing, local police received multiple complaints of loud noises believed to be “small explosions” near Arsenault’s home.
Still, the investigation of the Conways’ car bombing dragged on. “I think the Conways were concerned about the length it took. They were upset about their safety and worried about their safety” Giammarino said. The Conways did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
In February 2019, federal law enforcement sought and received a warrant to search Arsenault’s home. “The proximity of Arsenault’s residence, combined with previous statements expressing desire to create and use explosive charges and the acquisition of materials which could be used to construct [improvised explosive devices], constitutes probable cause that Arsenault was responsible for the vehicle explosion,” an FBI agent with the New Hampshire Joint Terrorism Task Force wrote.
Nine months later, on Nov. 13, 2019, a grand jury charged Arsenault with a federal crime—but not with any car-bombing. Instead, the feds slapped him with one count of possession of an unregistered firearm for having “knowingly received and possessed an explosive bomb,” defined as a firearm under federal law. The date of the alleged offense—on or about Dec. 1, 2018—coincides with the day the Conways’ car was attacked, but the alleged car-bombing itself remains unaccounted for by law enforcement.
For his part, Arsenault has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his attorney has requested a delay in his pending trial, citing the need to review the recently-unsealed search warrant and have his defense expert examine the evidence. He was also released pending trial, though as part of his court-mandated restrictions, he was required to stay away from the Conways. Arsenault’s defense attorney did not provide a comment when contacted by The Daily Beast for this story. The FBI’s Boston office and the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Hampshire also declined to comment.
“Alex is still innocent until proven guilty,” Giammarino, Greenfield’s police chief, cautioned of the strange local incident, one that stuck out in such a serene community. “He hasn’t been convicted. He hasn’t admitted to anything, so we want to be careful there.”