A former Fort Polk soldier recently pleaded guilty to manufacturing, possessing and detonating a chemical weapon last year in Kisatchie National Forest.
New Llano native Ryan Keith Taylor, 24, detonated a homemade chemical weapon on April 12, 2017 inside Kisatchie National Forest near Fort Polk. Taylor was a US Army soldier stationed at Fort Polk at the time of the crime.
According to Taylor’s guilty plea, three soldiers were conducting land navigation training approximately when they heard several small explosions 100 meters from their position and observed white smoke billowing above the trees.
One soldier was sent to investigate the smoke. The soldier saw Taylor with a metal “conex” container, filming the explosion on a smartphone, and when he confronted Taylor the latter claimed to have been popping “firecrackers.”
The soldier questioned Taylor, asking for his identity and if he had any weapons. Taylor identified himself and gave the soldier his pistol. The soldier then unloaded the round from Taylor’s pistol, gave it back to him, and Taylor left in his vehicle with the container shortly thereafter.
The soldier reported what he saw, noting the chlorine smell and white residue to the Fort Polk Department of Emergency Services (DES), and reported the incident to the military police.
Investigators tracked down Taylor and immediately detained him.
“(Taylor) allegedly burned an unknown substance in a military training area in the Kisatchie National Forest and fled the scene,” Fort Polk Public Affairs Office stated in a press release after the 2017 incident. “The second incident occurred during a search of the soldier’s vehicle on Fort Polk, when a commercially available substance, most commonly used as a disinfectant for swimming pools, was discovered.”
The commercially available substance was confirmed to be chlorine. “Chlorine and, what appeared to be, bomb-making materials, were found in the vehicle,” Vernon Parish Sheriff Sam Craft stated in a release.
Later that day, a third incident involved personnel from the FBI, Louisiana State Police, and New Llano Police Department searching Taylor’s apartment where two military issue explosive devices and a “pipe bomb” were discovered. The two devices were identified as a M228 training grenade fuse, and a MI 8 smoke grenade.
Taylor lived at the Mona Lisa Apartment complex, seven miles from Fort Polk. The complex was evacuated immediately after the bomb was discovered.
A combined effort from Fort Polk’s explosive disposal team, the Louisiana State Police, and the FBI saw to the safe deactivation of the bomb. The bomb was moved to a wooded area behind the complex where it was safely detonated.
The investigation of a storage unit rented in Taylor’s name resulted in a notebook being found.
The notebook contained detailed handwritten instructions on how to manufacture improvised explosive devices and chemical bombs. The internet search history on his smartphone revealed similar searches related to bomb making.
No motive as to why Taylor committed the crimes has been released at this time.
U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey is set to sentence Taylor on September 12. He could face a life sentence and a $2,500,000 fine.