Second man charged in bottle-bomb incidents

Authorities in Prince George’s County have charged a second man they believe was involved in setting off so-called bottle bombs at crowded movie theaters across the region in recent months, sparking panic and fears of a mass shooting.

Michael Sean Hollingsworth, 23, of Takoma Park, Md., is believed to have served as the driver for 20-year-old Manuel Joyner-Bell Jr., who was charged last week with actually detonating the devices, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.

Hollingsworth was taken into custody Friday and charged with manufacture, possession and distribution of a destructive device and a related conspiracy count in connection with an explosion during a showing of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” at the Magic Johnson Theater in Largo on May 24, Brady said. He said it is likely that police and fire officials in other jurisdictions will soon charge him in other incidents.

The explosions at six theaters in Prince George’s, Fairfax, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties and the City of Alexandria sowed fears among moviegoers across the D.C. region and put police and fire officials on high alert. The devices were crude — relying on chemical reactions inside soda or water bottles to create massive pressure and loud explosions — but their effect was significant. Moviegoers reported hearing pops, like a gun being fired, and then fleeing for the exits.

Joyner-Bell Jr. was charged last week with manufacture, possession and detonation of a destructive device, and authorities have said he admitted to setting off the bombs. But Joyner-Bell Jr. did not have a driver’s license, Brady said, and appears to have relied on Hollingsworth to take him and the devices to each theater. It is unclear how far Hollingsworth’s role extended beyond that.

Brady declined to say what evidence authorities had linking Hollingsworth to the incidents, and he said he was unsure of the precise relationship between him and Joyner-Bell. He said it was also unclear whether Hollingsworth would be the last person charged in connection with the incidents.

“Every time we interview somebody, there’s new information that comes up,” Brady said. “The investigation remains open and ongoing.”

No attorney was listed for Hollingsworth in court records, and relatives could not immediately be located.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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