Lake Wales Police Department Press Release
Date: January 27, 2018
On January 21, 2018, first responders evacuated the Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales following the report of a possible pipe bomb that had detonated inside a corridor. Following an extensive investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies, we learned the devices were not pipe bombs, but marine flares disguised with black electrical tape resembling pipe bombs. Further investigation revealed an unknown suspect had ignited the flares and attempted to throw them into the drop ceiling above the corridor and Kay Jewelers, which is immediately adjacent to the corridor. Initial reports led officers to believe there may have been more than one suspect involved in the incident. As the investigation continued, law enforcement collected hours of video from surrounding businesses, followed up on leads and processed physical evidence discovered at the scene.
The Lake Wales Police Department (LWPD) was the lead agency in this investigation, assisted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (FBI JTTF), the Safe Streets Task Force, the state Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigation Bomb Squad (BFAI) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
The investigation revealed a suspect leaving the scene of the crime, which resulted in a composite being released on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Throughout the week, investigators worked tirelessly, following up on tips and on Friday, January 26, 2018, the FDLE Crime Lab contacted us. FDLE indicated that five of the items left behind by the suspect had a DNA profile on them, resulting in a Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hit on32-year-old Patrick Joseph Collins of Auburndale, Fl.
Investigators determined Collins was possibly residing at 315 Leta Street in Auburndale and the Auburndale Police Department quickly joined in the effort to locate Collins. As detectives conducted surveillance at this location, Collins exited the residence. PCSO deputies approached to speak with Collins in the yard as he walked toward a 2010 Harley Davidson motorcycle. Upon sight of law enforcement, Collins attempted to flee on the motorcycle and ran into one of the deputy’s vehicles. After crashing the motorcycle, he ran from the scene but was apprehended and taken into custody following a brief struggle. Due to the crash, Polk County EMS transported Collins to the Winter Haven Hospital where he was medically cleared then released.
During questioning, Collins admitted to igniting the flares at the Eagle Ridge Mall on Sunday evening. He provided no explanation or motive for his actions or his reasoning for disguising the flares with electrical tape. Collins stated he was trying to sleep in the corridor when people began to chase him and he ignited the flares to keep them from getting him. Witness statements and video surveillance disprove his account of the incident. Collins stated no one else was there to help him and that he acted alone. He further stated that within the last two weeks he was terminated from his job where he worked on cell phone towers.
Building Partnerships for a Safer Community Detectives and the BFAI Bomb Squad executed a search warrant at 315 Leta St. and located two marine flares in the saddlebag of the motorcycle Collins had driven. The flares were similar to those recovered from the scene; however the outer portion of their housings had been removed. Inside the residence, detectives located black electrical tape along with black nitrile gloves similar to those left behind at the mall Sunday evening following the incident. Multiple fall protection harnesses were also located within the residence.
Investigators had recovered a black bag from the mall corridor Sunday evening with the words ͞Guardian Fall Protection͟ on it. Guardian is a manufacturer of fall protection harnesses and safety equipment similar to that found inside the residence. Collins’ criminal history includes carrying a concealed firearm, possession of marijuana, driving on a suspended license, failure to appear and violation of probation. The Lake Wales Police Department charged Collins with attempted arson and manufacturing/possessing a hoax bomb. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office charged Collins with resisting an officer without violence. Collins is scheduled for first appearance on Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m.
Chief Velasquez thanks all of the assisting agencies for their continued support throughout this investigation. ͞This is a perfect example of your local, state and federal law enforcement working together as a team to keep you safe and hold those that break the law accountable. It is also a perfect opportunity to remind the public if you see something, say something.͟This investigation remains active. Anyone with information should contact Lake Wales Police Detective Whitney Dukes at 863-678-4223 ext. 269 or Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-8477