Ryan Chamberlain had makings of bomb in S.F. apartment, FBI says

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Ryan Chamberlain had the makings of an improvised bomb -- explosive powder, a motor, wires for a detonator, ball bearings and screws -- in his San Francisco apartment, according to an affidavit released Tuesday.

The items found Saturday in a bag allegedly belonging to Chamberlain make up the “four components necessary to comprise an IED,” or improvised explosive device, according to the federal indictment.

Chamberlain, 42, is charged with possessing an illegal explosive device; he was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.


The indictment sheds light on authorities’ claims that Chamberlain could be “armed and dangerous.” Until now, officials declined to elaborate on why they sparked a nationwide search for a man regarded by friends and neighbors as a friendly social media guru and political junkie.

On Monday, Chamberlain released an automated note to friends in the form of a three-page letter on Facebook that retraced recent heartbreaks, perceived betrayals and bouts with melancholy.

The letter ended with a goodbye and “I love you” but made no explicit threat toward the public. Those close to him told media they feared Chamberlain would hurt himself, not others.

At a news conference Tuesday announcing Chamberlain’s capture, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Sur said the suspect was “absolutely growing more desperate.” A witness spotted Chamberlain’s car Monday night at Crissy Park near the Golden Gate Bridge and alerted authorities, who quickly descended and arrested Chamberlain after a brief struggle.

He was sitting in his car when he was found, a witness who recorded Chamberlain’s arrest told local reporters. Chamberlain was wearing a T-shirt and shorts at the time and did not appear to be armed.

When asked what Chamberlain allegedly planned to do with materials found inside his home, FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge David J. Johnson said: “We weren’t exactly sure.”


Authorities wanted to find Chamberlain “before he had an opportunity to do anything,” Johnson said. “Not saying he was planning any type of those activities. … We wanted to make sure public safety was our No. 1 concern and we wanted to take care of that mission.”

According to the indictment, investigators spoke with Chamberlain just before they searched his Polk Street apartment. On Saturday, they stopped Chamberlain as he walked into his building.

Chamberlain spoke with an investigator at a nearby coffee shop and admitted using his laptop to play poker on “black market” websites, court documents allege.

Immediately after the conversation, prosecutors say Chamberlain got into his car and ditched investigators trying to follow him.

He was “observed driving in an apparent reckless manner at a high rate of speed, failing to stop at posted lights and signs,” the document stated. Back at Chamberlain’s apartment, investigators found the suspected bomb-making material inside a satchel next to his laptop on the kitchen table.

According to the indictment, the bag contained a screw top glass jar holding batteries and a green powder, believed to be explosive, surrounding a motor for a model rocket, wire conductors, ball bearings and screws believed to be projectiles, a wire extending from the lid and a circuit board that could be used for a timed, remote detonation.


On a shelf next to the kitchen was a tool box with additional components, including a “clothespin switch” that officials say could be used in an IED or booby-trap.