Jamie Tucker said Mason Scott Beuning is “an absolute sweetheart.”
Yet on May 7, Beuning, 19, was found to be in possession of an improvised explosive device.
“I’ve never seen him do anything that would cause anyone harm,” said Tucker, Beuning’s 23-year-old former roommate. “He actually is a very generous and giving person.”
Beuning was 18 at the time he was arrested by the Gainesville Police Department after being caught attempting to steal $36.96 worth of merchandise from a Wal-Mart, at 1800 NE 12th Ave., according to an arrest report.
It was a high-profile incident and arrest at the time. GPD’s media release generated multiple local news stories, including WUFT News.
Ben Tobias, GPD spokesman, said the items – including metal BBs and flares – were consistent with constructing an explosive device. Beuning admitted to having a “homemade firework” at his home at 3119 NW Fourth St. in Gainesville.
Tobias said Beuning volunteered information about the device to GPD officers on the day of his arrest.
According to the arrest report, he described it as a cardboard tube containing black powder, sealed on both ends and with a fuse attached. The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office’s bomb squad later removed the object, X-rayed it and confirmed the device held about 4 ounces of powder.
The case was unusual, Tobias said, and due to its timing after a national tragedy involving explosives — the bombing at the Boston Marathon had occurred less than a month prior — law enforcement handled it especially carefully.
He said if evidence points to a suspect’s intention to construct an improvised explosive device, further investigation is routine.
Tucker said he was aware of the object under question while he lived with Beuning. He described it as looking like a firecracker someone might buy from the store, but nothing “menacing.” Beuning had constructed the firework one or two years before the incident, and as far as Tucker knew, Beuning had been waiting to detonate it in a clear field to avoid trouble or damage.
Jeanne Singer, the prosecutor in Beuning’s case, would not comment because the case is active.
Beuning is not in custody; he was released on his own recognizance of seven special conditions, according to a court order granting his release. He was ordered to reside with his mother at 150 E Robinson St. in Orlando, to not return to any Wal-Mart property and to not possess any fireworks or explosive materials, among other conditions.
Tucker said he believes Beuning is working an Orlando construction job, but he couldn’t say for sure. He was told by officials not to attempt to contact Beuning because they had been roommates at the time of the arrest.
Beuning had a history of shoplifting, Tucker said, but he mostly took food from large corporations — like Wal-Mart — as his own personal form of rebellion. Though it was odd for him to take something other than food, Tucker said Beuning intended to use the items he tried to steal appropriately.
“The funny thing is, the reason why he actually stole those things from Wal-Mart, is that we actually had BB guns in the house,” Tucker said.
The flares, he said, were meant to be used in a flare gun Beuning had recently received off of a family member’s boat.
“He was just going to plan on taking that and, like I said, using it in the actual device it was meant to be used in,” Tucker said.
Tucker moved out of the house the day after Beuning’s arrest. The other occupants listed in a GPD incident report, Leela Elizabeth Dawson and Alejandro Ellis, left in mid-May or at the end of the month. Dawson’s number was disconnected, however, and Ellis declined comment.
Beuning’s cellphone number, listed on the arrest report, leads to an automated message saying the mailbox is full before hanging up.
Gloria Fletcher, Beuning’s attorney, did not return multiple calls or an email requesting comment on the case.