Metro-East News

Belleville man who attempted to blow up own trailer faces criminal charges

Police were called to a Belleville trailer park to remove a woman, but soon found themselves trying to disarm her male friend of his cigarette lighter after he unhooked the natural gas line and then threatened to blow up the trailer.

James J. Dobbs, 52, of 109 Arapahoe Drive, Belleville, was charged Monday with two counts of attempting to cause a catastrophe, a felony.

No one was injured.

Belleville police were called to the trailer park at 1:31 p.m. Friday by property management. The caller stated Ruby E. Summers, 50, of Belleville, was previously told she was not allowed to be on the premises, said Det. Sgt. Mark Heffernan.

Summers left, but police were called back to the property when Summers returned about 2:10 p.m. Summers was charged with criminal trespass to property.

“(Dobbs) started yelling and screaming that he was going to blow up his trailer,” Heffernan said. “Police in the area then noticed a strong smell of natural gas and called the fire department.”

When firefighters arrived and attempted to shut off the gas, Heffernan said Dobbs showed a lighter out of the trailer window.

“For fear of their safety, the firefighters backed off,” Heffernan said.

Officers set up a perimeter, then evacuated nearby trailers, Heffernan said.

Dobbs came out of the trailer and sat on the front step. It was then that Belleville K-9 Officer Dave Jordan approached him and engaged him in conversation. Two other officers — Det. Phillip Koch and Det. Robert Wallace — went around the back of the trailer, Heffernan said, then took Dobbs to the ground.

“These officers displayed a great deal of courage in handling this dangerous situation, but they do that every day,” said St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.

The charges stated that Dobbs knowingly unhooked the nature gas outlet inside the residence, causing the residence to fill with gas, then threatened to blow it up.

Dobbs later told officers that “he was angry that Summers was arrested,” Heffernan said.

Kelly said this was the first time his office ever used this statute to charge “attempted catastrophe.”

Dobbs has a misdemeanor charge for aggravated assault, but that charge was dismissed after he served supervision.

Dobbs is being held on the current charges in St. Clair County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.