By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
The sister of an Eastern New Mexico University student charged in connection with a Nov. 2 campus bomb scare says authorities have an innocent man in custody.
Joshua Gilpin, 28, was arrested hours after school officials evacuated an ENMU science building and recovered chemicals that — if combined — could be used to build an explosive device. Police believe Gilpin stole the chemicals and later returned them to the lab.
Gilpin, who is being held at the Roosevelt County Detention Center, has a preliminary hearing scheduled for today in Portales Magistrate Court, court records show.
Emily Gilpin, who lives in Minnesota, said the Portales police investigation of her brother is misguided and erroneous.
“I don’t blame police … (but) in this situation police have goofed,” she said.
Gilpin said her brother was asked by officials with the ENMU science department to make and set off fireworks at a recent science fair.
“He had permission from the school (ENMU) to make fireworks,” she said.
ENMU staff member Kristi Armstrong, 47, and graduate student Ben Goldbaum, 25, told police they “knew Joshua Gilpin to have been experimenting with hazardous materials in the making of fireworks or explosive devices,” according to the search warrant affidavit.
Goldbaum said he had gone to Gilpin’s home in early October and “observed a wooden chest containing glassware and unknown chemicals,” court records show.
Armstrong declined further comment this week and Goldbaum could not be reached for comment.
Gilpin, an ENMU chemistry master’s student, is charged with possessing an explosive incendiary device, tampering with evidence and larceny, according to officials and police documents.
A day before his arrest in connection with the bomb scare, police discovered two marijuana plants in Gilpin’s residence at 321 Juniper St. while conducting a welfare check. Police also seized a rifle, the police report said.
Gilpin told police he returned chemicals to an ENMU lab after police had been to his residence on Nov. 1, court records show.
Officials from the school’s administration and science department declined comment, and/or did not know if the school solicited Gilpin to make (and or set off) fireworks for an ENMU event.
Emily Gilpin said she believes her brother did not intend to make a bomb or hurt people.
“I know this is the post-9/11 era, but jeez, my brother is a gentle soul,” Emily Gilpin said.
Joshua Gilpin graduated from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, where he majored in biology and won an undergraduate research award in 2002.
Gilpin’s faculty advisor for his award-winning research into cloning, Lakshmaiah Sreerama, said he didn’t believe his former student would make a bomb or inflict harm on people.
“I never sensed he’d want to hurt people,” Sreerama said.
Sreerama said Gilpin was often in the background, as an intelligent, hard worker in his lab.
Gilpin was “very inquisitive and helpful… he’d help other students,” Sreerama said.
Emily Gilpin said her brother is being treated like a “domestic terrorist.” She said Gilpin is being held in solitary confinement and has not been allowed to meet with a lawyer.
Officials from the Roosevelt County Detention Center would not comment on whether or not Gilpin is being held in solitary confinement.
A public defender has been assigned to Gilpin’s case, according to a Roosevelt County Magistrate Court official.
The state’s public defender department for the 9th Judicial District declined to identify Gilpin’s attorney.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said Tuesday a defense attorney has not yet made a first appearance on behalf of Gilpin.
Gilpin is being held on a $15,000 cash-only bond, according to a Roosevelt County jail official.
Emily Gilpin is confused why her brother’s bond is “so high,” she said: “Unless we sell our house, how do we put up that kind of money?”
As of Nov. 8 Gilpin is no longer enrolled at ENMU, according to Ronnie Birdsong, vice president of university relations and enrollment services.