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Milford Chemical Co. Owner Charged in Upper Bucks Bomb Probe

June 28, 2018

Contact: Gregg D. Shore, 215.348.6202, gdshore@buckscounty.org

David Surman Jr.
  David W. Surman Jr.

A Milford Township chemical company owner, suspected in a series of explosions across Upper Bucks County, was charged today with making or possessing bombs and several related misdemeanors.

David W. Surman Jr., 30, of the 2400 block of North Old Bethlehem Pike, was taken into custody during two early-morning searches of his home and business.

Four bombs were found in Surman’s home, according to charging documents, along with suspected methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in his bedroom. An array of chemicals that could be used to assemble bombs also was seized, District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said

The largest of the bombs “was over 18 inches in length, had four fuses all twirled together, and was ready to be detonated,” Weintraub said at an afternoon news conference in Richland Township.

Thirty explosions have been reported within a five-mile radius of Upper Bucks County since April 1, Weintraub said, with authorities finding seven detonation sites in close proximity to Surman’s home and business.

The seized materials are being sent to FBI labs in Quantico, Va., Weintraub said, in hopes that forensic analysis will match them to evidence collected at the detonation sites. He stressed that Surman currently is charged only with the materials found on his properties, not with the explosions.

“We’re satisfied that we have apprehended the person responsible, but this investigation is ongoing,” the district attorney said.

Surman was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Lisa J. Gaier of Richland Township on four felony counts of unlawful possession or manufacture of a weapon of mass destruction; and misdemeanor counts of drug possession, drug paraphernalia possession, possession of instruments of crime, prohibited offensive weapons and recklessly endangering another person.

First Assistant District Attorney Gregg D. Shore, assigned to prosecute the case, argued for high bail. Along with the bombs and suspected drugs, 10 firearms were taken from Surman’s home, he said.

“He defines a danger to the community. I have no doubt that if he gets out, he will go back home and continue what he has been doing,” Shore said. “We are one step away from someone being seriously injured.”

Defense attorney Joshua Buchanan countered that Surman, who has no criminal record, is a homeowner and a business owner with up to seven employees. His company, Consolidated Chemicals and Solvents, manufactures such things as flavorings and fragrances, Buchanan said.

Gaier set bail at $750,000, 10 percent cash, and ordered Surman to have no contact with his business or most of his employees. She said he must surrender his passport and possess no guns or chemicals that could be used in explosives, among other conditions.

Surman is scheduled for a preliminary hearing July 10 before Magisterial District Judge Regina Armitage of New Britain.

Weintraub said that Surman was developed as a suspect after around-the-clock surveillance by investigators. Details of that investigation, contained in affidavits used to obtain search warrants, are still under seal, he said.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Surman told investigators that two of the suspected bombs found in his home contained flash powder, while the other two contained erythritol tetranitrate. Both are explosive materials, the affidavit said.

Weintraub declined to speculate about Surman’s motives. “We’re still doing a whole lot of research into his background,” Shore added.

On display for reporters, however, were photos of three looseleaf binder pages found during the searches. On them were depictions of a swastika, a burning cross, obscenities directed at federal agencies, and disparaging words about gay people.

One of the pages used facial photos of Surman and his girlfriend to depict them driving away from a nuclear explosion in an SUV, smiling and joking.

Weintraub said the girlfriend has been cooperative with investigators, and said he has no evidence that Surman is a member of any hate groups.

He cautioned residents to call 911 if they come across anything they think might be an unexploded bomb. Anyone with information that could help the investigation was urged to call the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI and select Option 4 on the menu.

The investigation was led by the Pennsylvania State Police, assisted by the FBI, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Bucks County Detectives. Weintraub also thanked the Richland Township and Quakertown Borough Police Departments, St. Luke’s EMS, the Milford Township Fire Department, Bucks County Emergency Services, the Montgomery County Bomb Squad and the Montgomery County District Attorney for their help with the investigation.

“I am very, very relieved and grateful,” Weintraub said, that an arrest was made “before any harm was done to any person, and before any lives were lost.”

“This is a great example,” he said, “of where collaboration across local, state and federal agencies has saved human life.”

Each charge is an allegation subject to proof in court. Each of the accused is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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