Neighbors recall 25-year-old Duncan A. Badding exhibiting “odd” behavior – bouncing around on a pogo stick, walking on stilts and, just the other day, shooting blow darts into a backyard tree.
Odd turned into dangerous Wednesday night, when federal and local authorities found homemade explosives and chemicals all over Badding’s apartment at 66 Williamsburg Square in Amherst, after responding to a call of shots fired.
Amherst police arrived about 6 p.m. and saw Badding in his backyard shooting a .22-caliber rifle at bottles set atop an upside-down, galvanized metal wash tub, police said.
Badding allowed officers to look inside his apartment. When they discovered what appeared to be explosives, a search warrant was obtained. Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were summoned, along with FBI and Erie County bomb squad personnel, Erie County HAZ-MAT team and other authorities, who remained at the scene overnight.
Some of the explosives were in containers ready for detonation, while other chemicals were present and could be used to create more explosives, police explained. As a precaution, police who initially responded left the apartment, where Badding has lived for about a year, and sent in a robot to assess the danger.
“Chemicals everywhere,” Assistant Police Chief Charles Cohen said Thursday morning in describing the apartment. Most of the chemicals were obtained legally, he added, only becoming dangerous when mixed together.
It was the latest bizarre twist in a life that has had its share of them, according to police and neighbors.
Badding, who will turn 26 this month, was charged in 2009 by the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office with fourth-degree criminal mischief and petit larceny. He stole a road barricade and used it to strike a mailbox on Alleghany Road in Silver Creek.
Neighbors in Amherst said they referred to him as the Unabomber.
“You didn’t know what gadget you’d see him with next. We saw him shooting … a blow dart. Another neighbor in a nearby apartment complex told us she called the police on him twice because she heard loud noises,” said a female neighbor, who asked that her name be withheld.
Badding also behaved oddly when socializing, she and others said.
“He was off the wall. He came over on a pogo stick and said, ‘My name is Duncan, welcome to the neighborhood.’ He was bouncing up and down on this pogo stick that looked like it was from outer space. He wouldn’t leave. He just kept jumping up and down on the stick. He said he bought it for $500 on the Internet,” she said.
A neighbor who lives in the building next door, said Badding shot off M-80 firecrackers in the middle of the night.
“They actually woke me up,” the male neighbor said, also declining to give his name.
What really caused this neighbor to wonder about Badding was his affinity for strange toys.
“I’d see him when I was out grilling now and then, and one time he came over walking on these stilts that made him about 7 feet tall. He was standing on them the whole time we talked, and I was looking up at him. At other times, he would be outside in his yard … shooting darts into trees,” the man said.
When asked if he knew what Badding did for a living, the neighbor said, “He told me he was a claims adjuster.”
On Badding’s Facebook page, viewers could see more of the strange behavior his neighbors say they observed. There were several images of him blowing fire from his mouth. By late Thursday afternoon, the page had been disabled. However, information on it earlier had described him as attending Canisius College at some point.
His parents, Charles and Ann Badding, of Lockport, declined to comment when reached by The Buffalo News.
Badding was arraigned Thursday morning in Amherst Town Court on felony charges of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon – explosive material – and first-degree reckless endangerment for shooting the gun.
Justice Mark Farrell placed significant bail – $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash – on Badding, who remained at the Erie County Holding Center in lieu of bail.
The apartment and surrounding area were declared “decontaminated” at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
At a news conference later, Amherst police stressed no links to a terrorist plot or other types of intended violence have been discovered.
Amherst police are the only ones who have charged Badding at this time. But as the investigation continues and as the chemicals are further examined, Cohen said, federal authorities also could press charges.
Cohen’s news conference at Amherst Police Headquarters ended on an eerie note, with mention of the slayings of 12 people at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last month.
The accused shooter in that case had elaborately booby trapped his apartment with explosives.
“I’m sure,” said Cohen, “that was weighing on everybody’s minds.”
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