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Cops: Devices found in man's backpack at hospital appeared capable of detonating

Suffolk police said Wednesday night that Robert Roden

Robert Roden faces multiple charges after he allegedly brought a backpack containing three explosive devices into Stony Brook Hospital on Tuesday night. Credit: Stringer News Service; John Roca

The three homemade explosive devices that a Mastic Beach man brought into Stony Brook University Hospital on Tuesday night appeared capable of detonating, while the suspect's home was "booby trapped" with other weapons, including an AR-15, Suffolk County police and prosecutors said Thursday.

Robert Roden, 33, of Wavecrest Drive, was taken into custody after 9 p.m. Tuesday by Stony Brook University police after a hospital security guard reported a suspicious man in the emergency department waiting area, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a conference call with reporters. 

University officers then called Suffolk police because of a suspicious package inside Roden's backpack, officials said. 

Suffolk police bomb squad and K-9 officers determined that Roden's backpack contained three homemade explosive devices, each roughly the size of a grenade with a fuse, said Suffolk Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante. The devices are currently being analyzed at an FBI laboratory, he said.

"It did have the ability to be energized and exploded," Gigante said of the devices. "It was, in fact, a device that could be detonated if it was built correctly."

Hart said it was not immediately clear if the hospital was Roden's intended target or what may have prompted him to bring explosives into the hospital.

"The motive is still under investigation," she said.

Roden and his live-in male partner were brought to Stony Brook on Tuesday by another individual, Hart said. The partner, who is being questioned by law enforcement, along with the driver, went into the emergency department for an undisclosed medical reason, officials said.

Roden was found in possession of a cache of other weapons, including a tomahawk knife, a BB gun, a pocket knife and a tactical vest loaded with magazines of 9 mm ammunition, Hart said. In total, Roden had 80 rounds of live ammunition along with five cellphones and a pair of handcuffs, prosecutors said Thursday.

When confronted by police about the weapons, Roden told police: "There's people burning police cars, breaking all your windows. You really going to lock me up for a knife?," according to charging documents.

Two floors of the hospital, including the emergency room, were evacuated as a precaution with ambulances rerouted to other hospitals, officials said. The ER reopened at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, police said.

“This is a stark reminder of the inherent risk that law enforcement officers take and that they face on a daily basis," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at his daily media briefing.

A search of Roden's home Wednesday by local and federal law enforcement led to the discovery of five more bombs, oxidizers used to start explosions, fuel and other ignition sources, and electronics used to create explosives, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they were also made aware that Roden "booby trapped" the entrance to his bedroom. Responding law enforcement disabled the makeshift device, which including a BB gun loaded with a live shotgun bullet and an AR-15 assault rifle.

"This was all part of the booby trap that was set up at the entrance of the bedroom in a manner to injure someone upon entering," said Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Adriana Noyola.

Police found additional booby traps that used mouse traps as well as 42 grams of methamphetamines inside the home, Noyola said.

Roden was arraigned in Central Islip on Thursday on charges of second and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; second-degree criminal contempt; two counts of third-and-fourth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; and unlawful possession of a weapon on school grounds. Additional charges are pending, officials said. He pleaded not guilty and was held on $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond.

Roden has previous convictions for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and driving while ability impaired by alcohol, as well as an open warrant for menacing after he allegedly threatened another individual with a hammer while yelling threats. The court had previously forbidden Roden from possessing any firearms.

Stephen Kesner, Roden's Legal Aid defense attorney, objected to the high bail, calling it an "extreme hardship" and said his client has had "minimal contact with the criminal justice system." 

Stony Brook Hospital officials said in a statement Thursday night that text and email messages were sent to the campus community during the incident, along with several social media postings.

"There are different types of communication options for such emergencies," hospital officials said. "However, it was determined that additional methods of communication, such as using the overhead address system to indicate a suspected bomb threat, may have caused detrimental panic resulting in additional safety vulnerabilities to our hospital staff who were secured outside the established safety zone perimeter."

With Antonio Planas and Zachary R. Dowdy 

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