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Press Release

Former NIST Police Officer Admits That He Attempted to Manufacture Methamphetamine, Causing an Explosion

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland
“Methamphetamine is Unsafe to Produce and Unsafe to Use”

Greenbelt, Maryland – Former National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) police officer Christopher Bartley, age 41, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to attempting to manufacture methamphetamine in a laboratory room on the NIST campus on Saturday, July 18, 2015, which resulted in an explosion.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Special Agent in Charge Scott Hinckley of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder of the Drug Enforcement Administration - Washington Field Division; and Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department.

"Methamphetamine is unsafe to produce and unsafe to use," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Mr. Bartley damaged government property and jeopardized the health and safety of NIST employees by mixing dangerous chemicals."

 According to his plea agreement, on July 18, 2015, Bartley reported to work at NIST where he worked as a lieutenant with the NIST police force.  In the evening, Bartley entered a room inside a NIST building in order to use equipment to manufacture methamphetamine under a chemical fume hood.  While attempting to manufacture methamphetamine, Bartley caused an explosion that blew four of the room’s windows out of their frames. The shatterproof windows were found at distances ranging from 22 to 33 feet from the building. Bartley suffered burns on his head and arm.

The explosion caused the temperature in the room to rise to 180 degrees, activating a silent heat alarm.  When firefighters entered the building shortly thereafter, they saw Bartley leaving the room with burns on his arm, as well as singed eyebrows and hair.  Before leaving the building, Bartley collected remnants of items from the scene of the explosion and later threw the items in a dumpster near the building.  He then drove to another NIST building where he discarded additional items in the trash related to his attempt to manufacture methamphetamine.

Law enforcement later searched the trash near those two buildings and seized a coffee grinder with white powder residue, rubber gloves, a funnel, a soda bottle containing white powder with a rubber tube coming out the top, coffee filters, burnt and melted plastic, a bottle of Drano crystals, a gas mask and protective safety glasses.

Law enforcement agents searched Bartley’s vehicle and recovered a book that contained Bartley’s handwritten notes of ingredients and equipment needed to manufacture methamphetamine, including tubing, a funnel, coffee filters, Coleman camp fuel and lye.

At 1:27 a.m. on July 19, 2015, Bartley sent an email to his supervisor titled “tonight’s explosion” in which he admitted he had attempted to manufacture methamphetamine.  A few hours later, Bartley also admitted to a law enforcement agent that he had been trying to manufacture methamphetamine at the time the explosion occurred.

The total amount of methamphetamine involved in the offense was less than five grams.

Bartley faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel has scheduled sentencing for November 19, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.  Bartley is not in custody.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, DEA and Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation, and praised NIST for their assistance in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leah Jo Bressack and Mara Zusman Greenberg, who are prosecuting the case.

Updated February 4, 2016