SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A man charged with possessing explosive material at his San Francisco apartment also used an anonymous, Internet-based marketplace to try to buy biological agents and lethal toxins, the FBI said in documents unsealed Friday.
In the search warrant affidavit, FBI agent Michael Eldridge said witnesses reported shipping pure nicotine and abrin to suspect Ryan Chamberlain.
UPS records confirmed a package that a witness said contained abrin was delivered to Chamberlain’s apartment on December 6, 2013, the affidavit said.
Authorities have not said what, if anything, Chamberlain intended to do with the toxins or with the bomb-making materials and toxins authorities say were found at his apartment.
Chamberlain said he wanted to use the abrin – a poison found in the seeds of a plant called the rosary pea – to “ease the suffering” of cancer patients, according to the affidavit.
A witness testified that Chamberlain asked about the dosing size and effects of abrin, as well as if “an autopsy could detect whether abrin had been used to kill an individual,” according to the document. The initial abrin purchase was to be a trial run that, if successful, would be used “on a larger scale,” the witness said.
However, the witness told authorities that Chamberlain had later complained that the abrin he ordered “did not work.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control reports on its website that abrin is not known to have ever been used in war or terrorist attacks, but it has been used in medical research for its potential to kill cancer cells.
Nicotine, in its pure form, can be used to contaminate food, water and agricultural products, according to the CDC. It was once used to fumigate crops, and exposure to relatively small amounts can cause birth defects or even be deadly.
Previously, according to one witness cited in the document, Chamberlain had tried to get the liquid form of ricin – a naturally occurring poison found in castor beans – but had found that it was too expensive. The U.S. once experimented with ricin for military uses in the 1940s, and more recently it has been used by terror groups.
Chamberlain’s public defender, Jodi Linker, declined to comment.
Chamberlain, 42, was arrested Monday after a three-day manhunt that authorities said was prompted by the discovery of bomb-making materials at his apartment.
Chamberlain apparently came to the attention of the FBI as it investigated and monitored the online marketplace where people allegedly bought and sold guns, bombs, drugs, chemicals and counterfeit goods. A customer who was planning to commit suicide turned himself into police after buying abrin and cyanide and allegedly implicated Chamberlain.
Also on Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins refused to let Chamberlain post bail pending his trial, which has not yet been scheduled.
Prosecutor Phil Kearney said that in interviews with investigators, Chamberlain never mentioned depression or sought mental health help.
Chamberlain has been charged with one count of possessing material that could be used to build an explosive device. He has not entered a plea.
The judge scheduled an afternoon hearing to determine whether to transfer Chamberlain to a secured psychiatric unit at a hospital, where he could undergo an examination.
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