TUPELO, Miss., Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Police say a man in Tupelo, Miss., threw an explosive device inside a Walmart store because the chain stopped selling merchandise featuring the Confederate flag.
Marshall Leonard, 61, was arrested Sunday on the charge of detonating an explosive.
Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aquirre said Leonard advised a nearby employee to run before lighting and tossing the newspaper-wrapped device, which made a loud bang but did no damage. Bomb technicians reportedly noted the package contained enough explosives to cause more harm had they been arranged in a different manner.
"He was a strong supporter of the Mississippi flag," CBS News quoted Aquirre as saying.
Some Mississippi cities and institutions have recently stopped flying the state flag because it features in its left-hand corner the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia, the red standard with blue stripes and white stars that was flown in the U.S. Civil War by the army of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee but is often referred to as the "Rebel flag" or "Confederate flag."
Walmart in June said it had "taken steps to remove all items promoting the Confederate flag from our assortment." The store was among other retailers that stopped selling the flag following the June 17 killing of nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
The accused shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, posed with photos of the Confederate flag in a website in which he promoted white supremacy.
Leonard was formerly part of "Mississippi On Guard," a 9,300-member organization that supports the state flag, WTVA reported. Leonard appeared with the group before the Tupelo city council in August but was ousted from the organization after he draped himself in the flag, which members characterized as a "desecration."
Leonard was apprehended near the Walmart after running a red light in his silver Mazda, from which he displayed the 4-foot-long state flag.
His arrest comes after 15 members of a pro-Confederate flag group were indicted last month for gang activity and making terrorist threats after they allegedly waved weaponry and shouted racial slurs at attendees of a black child's birthday party near Atlanta, Ga.