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Charges Filed Against Man Accused Of Small Explosion On UNC Campus

Updated 12:57 p.m. | November 6, 2017

The man accused of setting fire to an iconic poplar tree at UNC - Chapel Hill has been accused of six felony charges. 

Authorities say Joshua Daniel Edwards, 24, faces explosives charges as well as assembling a weapon of mass destruction. Police say Edwards was responsible for a device that detonated last week at a historic tree on campus known as the Davie Poplar. Edwards is undergoing a mental evaluation at UNC Hospitals.

Updated 9:54 a.m. | November 3, 2017

One of UNC Chapel Hill's iconic landmarks suffered damage Thursday night, when an individual reportedly blew up a small incendiary device on the Davie Poplar.

According to campus officials, a small device was detonated and set fire to the Davie Poplar, a tree more than 300 years old on McCorkle Place. 

Officials say a suspect is in custody. The Orange County District Attorney's Office says the suspect has been taken to a hospital for mental health evaluation. One person suffered non life-threatening injuries and was transported to the hospital, according to university officials. 

Witnesses describe what sounded like a "medium-sized explosion."

“A man was screaming and he seemed to be getting louder as he was getting closer to us. Then we heard more screaming from a police officer," said David Doochin, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill who witnessed the incident. "Someone in a green shirt was lying on the ground being restrained by the police officer. And the guy on the ground was yelling things like "Hail Satan. I'm the Anti-Christ. This is Revelations.”

A video posted to Twitter showed a fire burning at the base of the tree, which is estimated to be up to 375 years old.

The school's webpage says legend identifies the tree as the spot where Revolutionary War General William R. Davie selected the site for the school.

Police in Carrboro also closed a section of west Weaver Street after a suspicious package was found. 

UNC and Chapel Hill Police continue to investigate the incident.
Producer Will Michaels contributed to this report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
Elizabeth “Liz” Baier is WUNC’s Digital News Editor. She's a first-generation Colombian-American fluent in Spanish. She has two decades of experience than span print, audio, and digital reporting and editing.
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