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Press Release

Ohio Man Sentenced to Prison in Connection with Destructive Devices Found on Tug Boats

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Nathaniel Blayn Becker, 43, of Marietta, Ohio was sentenced today to eight years and one month in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, in connection with pipe bombs found on tugboats on the Ohio River.

On April 19, 2022, a federal jury found Becker guilty of two counts of possession of an unregistered destructive device and two counts of placement of a destructive device on a vessel. According to court records and evidence presented at trial, law enforcement officers recovered the destructive devices from two different tugboats moving barges on the Ohio River on October 21 and October 25, 2021. Becker appeared on security video purchasing pipes and other relevant components of the devices from a Lowe’s store in Marietta on four separate occasions and close in time to when the devices were found. Around the time of the first incident, exterior security video from Lowe’s and the Walmart in Marietta showed Becker carrying pipe bomb components toward an Ohio River bridge. Investigators believe the destructive devices were dropped from the bridge.

Similar devices were discovered on a third tugboat moving barges on the Ohio River on October 26, 2021. However, those devices were found to contain non-explosive septic tank cleaner and therefore Becker was not charged.

Becker was on probation at the time of the offenses, following his conviction for failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer in the Washington County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas on August 28, 2020. Becker had brandished a knife at an officer during a traffic stop on February 3, 2020, and then led police on a car chase before barricading himself in his residence. Becker was arrested after a standoff with law enforcement.

“This was a very concerning case to me because not only did it put the workers of the tugboats at risk, it also put the general public at risk because these pipe bombs were dropped from a major interstate bridge,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “This case was also very perplexing to me because even as of today, we have yet to find a motive of what made Mr. Becker want to do this. That’s concerning to me now and also concerning to me when Mr. Becker is eventually released.”

Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the assistance provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the West Virginia State Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Parkersburg Police Department, the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office.

"Nathaniel Becker showed complete disregard for public safety. His actions could have resulted in death or serious injury to citizens, as well as first responders who rendered those devices safe," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Shawn Morrow.  "This case demonstrates ATF's commitment to reducing violent crime involving the criminal misuse of explosives and it highlights strong interagency cooperation across multiple jurisdictions. I commend the ATF Charleston Office, the United States Attorney's Office, and our law enforcement partners for working together to hold Becker accountable."

Thompson also commended Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Hanks and former Assistant United States Attorney Nick Miller for prosecuting the case and securing guilty verdicts on all four counts against the defendant.

United States District Judge Irene C. Berger imposed the sentence.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:21-cr-234.




Updated December 1, 2022

Firearms Offenses