Rock Springs men sentenced in pipe bomb case
December 8, 2022
Acting United States Attorney Nicholas Vassallo announced Dec. 2 that Spencer Dale Cottrell, age 51, Bryan Roland Foster, age 39, and Gage Mercer, age 31, all from Rock Springs, Wyoming, have been sentenced by United States District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson for crimes related to improvised pipe bombs. Cottrell was also sentenced for distribution of methamphetamine.
According to court records, on February 14, 2021, the Rock Springs Police Department attempted to stop Cottrell for a traffic violation. After police activated their lights, Cottrell attempted to flee but crashed his truck into a snowbank. A subsequent search of Cottrell's truck revealed an improvised pipe bomb. Further investigation revealed that Cottrell's cousin, Bryan Foster, made four pipe bombs for Cottrell. The Rock Springs Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation searched Foster's residence and recovered a second pipe bomb. The remaining two pipe bombs were recovered at the residence of Gage Mercer, who had taken the bombs from Cottrell's residence just after Cottrell's arrest on February 14.
In May of 2021, Foster was indicted for the unlawful making of a pipe bomb and unlawful possession of pipe bombs, which are destructive devices under federal law. In separate indictments, Cottrell and Mercer were charged with unlawful possession of pipe bombs, and Cottrell was charged with distribution of methamphetamine based on three controlled buys of the drug in early 2020.
Mercer pled guilty to unlawful possession of pipe bombs and was sentenced by Judge Johnson on February 18, 2022, to 35 months in prison with three years of supervised release to follow. Mercer was also ordered to pay a $500 fine and $100 special assessment.
Cottrell pled guilty to unlawful possession of a pipe bomb and distribution of methamphetamine and was sentenced by Judge Johnson on July 7, 2022, to a total of 121 months in prison with four years of supervised release to follow. Cottrell was also ordered to pay $500 in community restitution and a $200 special assessment.
Foster pled guilty to unlawful making of a pipe bomb and was sentenced by Judge Johnson on October 18, 2022, to 36 months in prison with three years of supervised release to follow. Foster was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.
"Through the cooperative efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement, these destructive devices were secured before the defendants could cause serious harm," said Acting United States Attorney Nick Vassallo. "These defendants demonstrated a disregard for life and safety, and their sentences reflect the seriousness of their criminal conduct."
"Sometimes the most effective response to stop those plotting violence is a team approach -- for the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office, alongside state and local law enforcement, to come together and leverage our investigative and prosecutorial methods," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Matthew Fodor. "We are always available, ready and willing to assist our local law enforcement partners and bring to bear FBI resources to get bad actors off the streets."
"It is important to recognize that this case began as a traffic stop. This officer's ability to quickly recognize the threat is commendable. The work that our staff completed following that traffic stop embodies the commitment we have to a safer community. We appreciate our federal partners, and the resources they were able to provide during this investigation. The professionalism of all involved is reflected in the successful outcome," said Interim Rock Springs Police Chief Bill Erspamer.
These crimes were investigated by the Rock Springs Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from Sweetwater County Joint EOD Team and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy J. Forwood.