What We Know About the Confederate Flag Lover Who Allegedly Bombed a Walmart This Weekend

Mississippi cops say Marshall Leonard set off a small explosive device at a Walmart in his hometown early Sunday, a twisted Halloween outing that could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

by Brian McManus
03 November 2015, 11:47pm

Photo via Flickr user frankieleon

After the devastating murder of nine African-American parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina this spring, the Confederate flag was the subject of a heated national debate. Because Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old suspected of the slaughter, was known to be fond of the symbol, the flag's ugly history and meaning could no longer be ignored. Activist Brittany "Bree" Newsome shimmied her way 30 feet up the flagpole at the South Carolina state capitol and into social media stardom when she snatched it down in protest. Lawmakers went on to officially remove it soon after.

Perhaps most remarkably, the retail giant Walmart, along with major American businesses, announced they'd stop selling the flag at their stores.

None of that seemed to sit very well with Marshall Leonard, 61, of Tupelo, Mississippi. Local cops allege he set off a small explosive device at a Walmart in his hometown early Sunday, a twisted Halloween outing that could land him in prison for the rest of his life, as the local Daily Journal reported.

Leonard was apparently notorious around town for flying a four-foot Mississippi state flag—which contains the Confederate battle flag—through the sunroof of his silver Mazda. His car is also reportedly adorned with several Confederate flag stickers. Leonard also showed up to at least one city council meeting draped in the Confederate stars and bars.

"He's a strong supporter of keeping that flag flying... This is his way of bringing attention to that," Police Chief Bart Aguirre told the Associated Press.

The explosion apparently did very little damage—though it made a loud bang—and no one was injured. But local authorities are still charging Leonard with detonating an explosive.

Last Wednesday, October 28, Leonard seemed to tease his racist sortie with threats on the Facebook page of the Daily Journal: "Journal corporate, you are on final warning," he began. "You are part of the problem. As a result of this, y'all are going down, along with Walmart, WTVA, Reeds department store, and all the rest of the anti-American crooks. I'm not kidding. No messing around anymore!"

On Sunday night, at around 1:30 AM, Leonard allegedly made good on that promise. According to Aguirre, "a white male got out [of his car], lit the package and threw it in the vestibule" of the discount super store. "An employee was sitting the vestibule taking a break. He told the employee to run—that he was going to blow the place up. He throws this package into the front entrance of Walmart. He flees and the employee flees."

Bomb technicians determined that the package held enough explosive to wreak havoc had it been assembled more competently. A sergeant with the Lee County Sheriff's office told VICE Tuesday that Leonard's bond was set at $150,000.

Follow Brian McManus on Twitter.

confederate flag
Vice Blog