Officer Brandon Gilmore was on routine patrol when he came across a vehicle stopped in the middle of the roundabout on the Old Asheville Highway around 2 a.m. A passenger was out of the vehicle at the time and jumped back in when Gilmore approached.
Gilmore recognized the driver as John Clinton Cathy, 37, who sometimes goes by “Cat Hair.” Cathy was acting extremely nervous — his hands were trembling, he was sweating profusely and breathing heavily, according to Gilmore’s report on the incident.
Based on Cathy’s erratic behavior and his social connections to known meth users, Gilmore decided to search the vehicle using his K-9 dog.
As Cathy smoked a cigarette on the side of the road watching the search unfold, he saw the K-9 go after something in the bed of the pickup, trying to crawl up under it.
Cathy then happened to volunteer some interesting information to another officer who had arrived as back up, according to police reports.
Cathy told Officer Jason Reynolds that he’d found a plastic PVC pipe with wires hanging out the end of it earlier in the day. It was in the Pigeon River near Sunburst Campground in the Pisgah National Forest, he told officers.
“Mr. Cathy told me that he picked the item up and took it out of the area because there were families and he didn’t want anyone to get hurt. Mr. Cathy told me that he was going to bring it to the Sheriff’s Office but he had forgot it,” Gilmore recounted in his police report on the incident.
Cathy told Gilmore the pipe was in the pocket of a raincoat wrapped up in the bed of the pickup. Gilmore found the jacket and gently peaked inside, revealing a 6-inch PVC pipe with caps on each end and a fuse coming out of it.
“I left the raincoat where it was at and walked back to where Mr. Cathy was sitting and explained to Mr. Cathy the severity of the situation,” Gilmore recounted in his report. “Mr. Cathy continued to tell me that the pipe wasn’t his and he was just trying to do a good deed.”
Gilmore called in the Asheville Police Department’s Bomb Squad, who arrived around 4 a.m. The bomb unit attempted to use a robot to retrieve the bomb from the car but was unable to do so, according to police reports. So a member of the bomb squad donned a bomb suit and pulled the home-made pipe bomb.
“They detonated it right there in the middle of the road way,” Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said.
Cathy was charged with felony possession and felony transport of a weapon of mass destruction. He posted bail of $30,000 shortly following his arrest.