tampabay.com

Man threatens to ignite himself, office building

He faces attempted arson, fire bomb charges.

By EMILY NIPPS
Published February 7, 2007


TAMPA - Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies arrested a man Tuesday who walked into a north Tampa Social Security Administration office and threatened to set himself and the building on fire.

Jason S. Elliot, a 49-year-old veteran, rode to the 4010 Gunn Highway office on a bicycle and walked in carrying a red duffel bag and a gallon can of gasoline around 2 p.m. Elliot called the FBI on his cell phone while he was inside the office and he claimed to have a gun, according to sheriff's Lt. Ron Valenti.

Elliot sprinkled a small amount of gas on the floor and threatened to light it and himself. Sheriff's deputies arrived, followed by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, K-9, hazmat and bomb squad units. After about 10 minutes of surrounding the building, deputies saw a security guard walk outside with Elliot and immediately apprehended him.

Elliot did not have a gun and told the security guard that he didn't intend to hurt anyone, Valenti said, but his gas can was three-quarters full and had a rope sticking out of it like a fuse.

"It's like dynamite if it is lit," Valenti said. "He could have taken out half the building here."

All of the building's employees, including those in adjoining businesses, were evacuated while investigators searched for bombs and other evidence inside and around the Social Security office.

More than a hundred workers waited in the parking lot, watching as officers combed the area.

No one was injured in the incident.

Elliot's motive for the threats was unclear, but it appeared to be related to a medication dispute he was having with a local veterans hospital.

"Somehow that tied in with his Social Security benefits and this office," Valenti said.

Public records show that Elliot has been convicted before of charges ranging from drug possession to theft to dealing in stolen property. He faces attempted arson and fire bomb charges, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter.

Emily Nipps can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or nipps@sptimes.com.