Germantown man held for court after homemade explosives blew off his fingers

 The home where an explosion cost Douglas Ferrin several fingers sits next to a Sunoco gas station in Germantown. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

The home where an explosion cost Douglas Ferrin several fingers sits next to a Sunoco gas station in Germantown. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

A Germantown man will stand trial on felony charges connected to an explosion at his home last month that left him with three lost fingers and frightened neighbors.

At around 4 a.m. on May 7, police were called to the 100 block of West Queen Lane. There they found Douglas Ferrin sitting on his front steps, covered in blood.

“His entire hand was blown up. Skin, blood, bones  — everywhere,” said Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Sweeney during Thursday’s preliminary hearing.

It remains unclear what exactly exploded or how Ferrin was injured.

The scene

After arriving at Ferrin’s home, sandwiched between a Sunoco gas station and an occupied residence, Sweeney said the 54-year-old told him the incident involved a sparkler.

Sweeney didn’t buy that explanation.

“I knew it had to be more than a sparkler,” he said.

As medics transported a screaming Ferrin to Albert Einstein Medical Center, investigators with the Philadelphia Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ local field office combed the artist’s three-story home and the premises for bomb-making materials.

Inside, where a trail of blood extended from the front door to the back of the house, police found three improvised explosive devices, a series of “assorted powders,” scales and tubing, according to testimony.

An expert witness

Detective Timothy Brooks, a member of the police department’s Bomb Disposal Unit, said on-site tests revealed that a “fine, silvery powder” was an explosive agent.

Brooks, an expert witness, said the material is believed to be what’s known as flash powder, a highly combustible, highly volatile substance used to initiate explosions.

“Just merely shaking it can cause it to explode,” said Brooks, the second and final witness Thursday.

The container held approximately 1,000 grams of powder. Firecrackers typically contain less than a gram of explosive material, noted Brooks.

Brooks said Ferrin also had enough materials to make more flash powder.

Out back, investigators found device debris — burnt pieces of plastic believed to be tied to the explosion that sent Ferrin to the hospital.

And more blood and flesh — some of it in the next-door neighbor’s backyard.

The defense speaks

After the Commonwealth rested, Catherine Berryman, Ferrin’s attorney, asked that Municipal Court Judge Wendy Pew drop two of the charges facing her client — arson and causing catastrophe.

She maintained that Ferrin only harmed himself, not others, and that some of the materials taken from his home are not illegal to possess.

Pew dismissed Berryman’s arguments with a heavy dose of bewilderment before holding Ferrin for court on all charges.

“I wouldn’t want to be his neighbor,” said Pew.

Ferrin’s arraignment is scheduled for July 10.

In addition to arson and causing catastrophe, Ferrin is also charged with having weapons of mass destruction, failure to prevent catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person

“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” said Assistant District Attorney Marian Galietta after Thursday’s proceedings. “He’s a dangerous guy.”

This is not the first time Ferrin has been brought up on charges connected to explosives.

Ferrin faced similar charges in connection with a 2011 bathroom explosion at Molly Maguire’s Irish Restaurant in Phoenixville.

Chester County court records show that he pleaded guilty to a “Reckless Burning or Exploding — places property having value that exceeds $5,000 or automobile, place” charge in connection with the case.

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