A Mississippi man has been accused of throwing a homemade bomb into a local Walmart, police say. Marshall Leonard of Tupelo, MS, is accused of bombing a 24-hour Walmart early on Sunday morning. According to Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre, Leonard allegedly came into the vestibule of the store, where an employee was taking a break, around 1:30 a.m., told the employee that he was going to blow the building up, and said, “You’d better run.” He then lit a newspaper-wrapped package, threw it into the front door, and fled. He was arrested for running a red light about half an hour later. The poorly constructed explosive was small and did minimal damage to the store, but Aguirre said that the package held enough explosive material to do more significant damage if it had been better assembled. No one was harmed. Walmart stopped carrying items featuring the Confederate battle flag after the racially motivated shooting of nine Black members of a Bible study in Charleston, SC. Leonard has been an advocate for the Mississippi state flag, which has the Confederate insignia in its upper left corner. The Tupelo Daily Journal reports that Leonard recently posted a message on its Facebook page, threatening both the publication and several businesses, including Walmart. “Journal corporate, you are on final warning. You are part of the problem. As a result of this, y’all are going down, along with Walmart, WTVA, Reeds department store, and all the rest of the anti-American crooks. I’m not kidding. No messing around anymore!” The message was posted October 28.
The Confederate battle flag, seen by many as a symbol of slavery and oppression, has been the source of heated debate in American culture for decades. South Carolina flew the banner for years alongside its own state flag over the state capital, but legislators decided to take it down this past summer after public protests. Mississippi has been stubborn in its continued use of the Civil War iconography, with voters in the state choosing to keep the emblem on their state flag in 2001. Appropriately, if it was Leonard's love of the flag that led to the alleged crime, it was also his love of the flag that led to his arrest. Officers were able to identify his car after the bombing by the four-foot-long Mississippi state flag that he flies from his silver Mazda.