A South Jersey man bombed the front of an LGBTQ-friendly gym near his home in late August, prompting the FBI to track him down, raid his place, and find bomb-making materials, armor, loaded guns, and more, authorities said.
It was shortly before 4 a.m. on August 26 when 35-year-old Dwayne A. Vandergrift, Jr., put an explosive device on the door of Bellum Strength and Conditioning, otherwise known as “G-City” Crossfit, at 514 South Broadway in Gloucester City, according to a criminal complaint in US District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Surveillance video footage subsequently showed Vandergrift running across the street and scurrying away on an electric scooter. After he took off, the bomb detonated, blowing up the front door, smashing glass, and shredding a Rainbow Flag on display at the location.
CEO Steven Vitale of Lifting Culture Apparel wrote on his website about the bombing and featured photos of the damage that took place.
“G-City Crossfit had, and will continue to have, a large gay Pride flag displayed prominently in their front door,” Vitale wrote. “They are a known safe-haven in the area for LGBTQ youth. The owners themselves, many members, and several coaches are also gay.”
The gym’s Facebook page features a profile photo with the gym’s logo surrounded by Rainbow colors.
The following day, law enforcement officers seeking video evidence related to the incident said they asked Vandergrift if he would be willing to voluntarily provide video surveillance footage to investigators since he had previously provided cops with video camera footage of incidents that occurred in the neighborhood. In this case, he provided investigators with video footage of the wrong time frame, and further inquiries from police led him to offer more irrelevant video footage — this time from the wrong camera view.
Later on, investigators saw his mother leaving the residence. She told them that “her son had called her to say goodbye and informed her that he intended to commit ‘suicide by cop,’” according to the criminal complaint. She then spilled the beans, telling law enforcement officers that her son had firearms inside and that he was making threatening statements about cops.
Vandergrift was then taken into custody by local police and transferred to a crisis facility, at which point his wife allowed investigators to search the home, feds said. Investigators found four pounds of explosive powder, materials commonly used for making “destructive devices,” chemicals, pressure cooker-like containers, 12 firearms — including automatic rifles and ammunition — body armor, and about 85 marijuana plants accompanied by growing equipment. Investigators also found the electric scooter believed to be the getaway vehicle that Vandergrift used after planting the bomb.
After investigators dug through Vandergrift’s phone, they found search activity regarding weapons and information regarding designing explosive devices.
Authorities did not specify whether the case is being investigated as a hate crime and nowhere in the criminal complaint did it mention the kind of flag on display in front of the gym. In total, Vandergrift was charged with a slew of federal charges after he was initially hit with state charges. The federal charges are malicious use of explosives and possession of unregistered destructive devices and possession of a short barreled rifle, while the state charges are arson, possession of unlawful weapons and explosives, possession of high-capacity magazines, and drug-related charges.
Vandergrift, who is being held in state custody, is facing a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the federal charge of using explosives. He also faces up to 10 years for each for charges pertaining to possession of unregistered destructive devices and short-barreled rifle charges.
The owners of the Crossfit gym, Jenai Gonzales and Ann Panarello, did not immediately return a voice mail seeking comment for this story.
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