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Mysterious federal response in Lawton sparked by fears a chemical warfare agent had been made

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Heath
Heath

LAWTON — The massive federal response to a Lawton apartment in late January and early February was triggered by fears a man with a bomb-related conviction in his past had manufactured a chemical warfare agent that causes immediate extreme pain on contact.

An FBI agent revealed in a court affidavit that preliminary tests on a blue liquid found in the apartment of Philip James Heath "indicated a small presence of a chemical warfare agent commonly known as 'CX.'"

"The FBI is sending specialized groups of scientists and hazardous evidence recovery specialists to exhaustively search the subject premises pursuant to this search warrant for evidence of the manufacture of homemade explosives and weapons of mass destruction and improvised explosive devices," the FBI special agent told a federal magistrate judge Jan. 31.

Heath, 51, is now facing both federal and state charges. He was arrested after a sobbing woman called 911 early Jan. 30 from his apartment and reported he was pointing a gun at her and threatening her.

"Please don't kill me," the woman can be heard saying in a recording of the call.

At a detention hearing last week, federal prosecutors put on no evidence about any chemical warfare agent, an indication that further testing at the FBI lab did not confirm the presence of CX. The FBI agent's affidavit discussing CX had been sealed from the public until March 8.

What was put into evidence at the hearing was a witness statement to the FBI that Heath was attempting to create a virus to release and had talked of blowing up a man's home in February and then killing himself.

Found inside his apartment were chemicals to make explosives, detonation cord, an inert rocket launcher and a partially assembled grenade, according to testimony at the hearing.

Also found in the apartment were more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, two rifles, three pistols, a bulletproof vest and methamphetamine. Police suspect Heath made methamphetamine in the apartment and had been selling it there.

Lawton police notified the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Bomb Squad and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives because of the large quantity of chemicals found in the apartment. The FBI's top bomb expert in Oklahoma then got involved and called in the National Guard.

Further experts arrived after the preliminary testing in the National Guard's mobile lab on the blue liquid indicated the presence of CX. Dozens of investigators spent days in Lawton before the apartment was cleared. Some wore white hazmat suits.

The FBI has said little to the public about the massive response.

In a news release Jan. 31, the FBI stated only that materials were found inside the residence "with an indication of hazardous properties."

"Law enforcement has established a safe perimeter at the location and asks that all individuals stay away from the area," the FBI also stated. "As this is an ongoing matter, no further information or specific details will be released at this time."

After his arrest, Heath told police he had not manufactured any explosives but had researched how on the internet, a police detective wrote in a court affidavit. In the FBI's Jan. 31 request for a search warrant, Special Agent Timothy Bragg described seeing on a TV screen inside the apartment "what appeared to be Internet-based YouTube videos related to destructive devices."

On Heath's profile on Facebook is a cartoon with the caption: "I'm just one lab accident away from being a super villain."

His criminal history includes a 1987 bomb-related conviction in California, police reported. He also has a 1996 conviction in California for illegal firearm possession.

He is charged in Comanche County District Court with methamphetamine possession with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of explosives by a convicted felon and other offenses. He is charged in Oklahoma City federal court with felon in possession of firearms. U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Purcell on Monday ordered him confined until trial for the safety of the community.

Witnesses told the FBI he would pay women for sex with drugs and was into bondage, according to testimony at the detention hearing. One witness called his apartment "a torture chamber," an FBI special agent said.

The woman who called 911 reported he was very high that night and "literally eating dope," the agent also testified.

The woman was a regular visitor to his apartment. She told police he was angry that she would not have sex with him earlier, according to a court affidavit. She said he woke her up by throwing pennies at her and threatened to shoot her and then himself.

Nolan Clay

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,... Read more ›

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