Published on Sep 19, 2016
A man shot and killed during a confrontation with authorities Thursday night in Harlan County was previously accused of concealing explosives in trail cameras and putting them in the woods.
Mark Sawaf, 39, of Harlan had been indicted by a federal grand jury in July and was scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 13, according to court documents. He was ordered to remain in custody until trial and was indicted on eight charges, including owning and making unregistered destructive devices.
ATF had received information that Sawaf had placed more explosives in the woods and had gone with him to find them, Kentucky State Police Trooper Shane Jacobs said Friday. ATF asked Lexington police and fire officials for help because of “an expanded area” that needed to be searched and the scale of the operation, state police said. The state police hazardous devices unit was also asked to assist.
Sawaf died at the scene, according to state police and the Harlan County coroner’s office.
The group had found several trail cameras in the woods before the shooting, and bomb technicians searched the area Friday for more explosives, Jacobs said. Trail cameras are usually affixed to trees and are motion-activated to take photos of deer and other animals, but Sawaf allegedly had modified some with explosive material.
“It’s going to be a very big task for us to try to locate these trail cameras; it’s such a safety concern for individuals here in the Harlan community,” Jacobs said.
In May, a man lost multiple fingers and suffered injuries to his chest when a trail camera exploded, according to court documents. The man had gotten the cameras from someone who’d found them on a trail near Red Dog Road in Harlan County.
“The portrait the evidence paints of Sawaf is of a dangerously duplicitous individual — loving and caring to those who know him, but a secretive and anonymous explosives manufacturer whose devices are left for any hapless member of the public to find and trigger with serious resulting injuries,” according to the findings in the detention order.