ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Local NAACP leaders met with St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar on Wednesday to discuss the recent developments in the case against 26-year-old Cameron Swoboda.
Swoboda admitted to making bombs to potentially attack Black Lives Matter protesters in June 2020 but has avoided prison time thanks to a plea deal struck last week.
Judge Deborah Alessi sentenced Swoboda to 14 years in prison but suspended that sentence in favor of 5 years’ probation with regular mental health evaluations.
“He’s being protected under the situation that he is mentally ill and he’s on medication,” St. Charles County NAACP President James Le’Noir said after Wednesday’s hour-long meeting. “So, what will prevent him from coming off that medication, we don’t know.”
“We believe that based upon the judgement of the judge, of the prosecutor, that this may embolden others. That is the greater fear,” said Rev. Daryl Gray, an activist who was also part of the meeting.
“He had a capacity to detonate (the bombs) and if he wanted to, he could,” said Adolphus Pruitt, president of NAACP-St. Louis.
According to court documents, Swoboda used an explosive mixture with BBs or buckshot to improvise six hand grenades, a pair of pipe bombs, and a claymore-style mine at a friend’s apartment complex in O’Fallon, Missouri, to injure or kill people. Swoboda then hid most of the IEDs about five miles away in rural St. Charles County.
Friends turned him in worried he might attack Black Lives Matter protesters. He had also expressed violent tendencies toward police and Hispanics.
There was no actual plot to use the devices, Lohmar said. Swoboda suffers from what Lohmar called a severe mental illness.
“One of his conditions of bond was to continue his psychiatric care and treatment, stay on his medication,” Lohmar said. “He did that and demonstrated that when he’s medicated and seeking medical treatment on a regular basis, he’s a functioning member of society. So, this thing that happened would not have happened were it not for his mental health issues. That’s an important piece to us.”
The plea deal was not a perfect solution, Lohmar said, but the safest option with Swoboda, a first-time felon, likely to actually serve less than two of the 14 years in prison.
The NAACP leaders said they would digest what they learned in the meeting before deciding whether to pursue any other course of action.