Police say man was trying to make smoke bomb in apartment

Police say man was trying to make smoke bomb in apartment

Editor's note: Austin Povilaitis pleaded guilty July 2013 to misdemeanor reckless conduct and was
sentenced to a year of court supervision, which he successfully completed. Judgment against him was deferred and his court case later expunged.

CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign man who police say was trying to make a smoke bomb in his kitchen that sparked a fire has been criminally charged.

Austin Povilaitis, 22, a University of Illinois accounting student from Edina, Minn., was charged with felony criminal damage to property and reckless conduct in connection with the fire that happened about 3:25 a.m. in his second-floor apartment at 105 E. John St.

The fire prompted evacuation of about 14 residents, who were allowed back into their apartments just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Povilaitis admitted that he was trying to make a smoke bomb using a recipe and chemicals that he obtained from the Internet.

"While trying to cook the materials, flames shot out and fire spread across the kitchen floor," said Rietz. "He tried to extinguish the fire by moving the couch across the kitchen floor on to it." The misdemeanor reckless conduct charge alleges Povilaitis endangered his friend, Evan Hayes, 21, of Naperville.

"His friend is in the apartment studying and asked him what he was cooking. Povilaitis said, 'It's a surprise' and all of a sudden, smoke and fire," Rietz said.

She said Hayes became disoriented from the smoke and got on the floor. He crawled to a window, broke it out, and jumped. He was not injured, according to fire department spokeswoman Dena Schumacher.

Povilaitis sustained minor burns but refused treatment. A firefighter also was slightly injured.

Firefighters were called at 3:24 a.m. and arrived four minutes later, finding heavy black smoke when they arrived. The fire was contained mostly to the kitchen and was under control by 4:08 a.m.

Police obtained a search warrant for the apartment and notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Povilaitis was arrested and taken to jail Wednesday morning. He posted bond and was released then was arraigned on the charges in an afternoon court session.

Residents in the 14-unit, three-story building, owned by Gerald Marshal, were evacuated and sat inside a Mass Transit District bus for warmth. "Police were called and secured the building and said no one could go back in until they get the search warrant and get whatever they need to get. That's why they were displaced, not necessarily because of the fire," Schumacher said.

UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the affected students were all able to find alternative accommodations. UI staff provided warm clothing and contacted the students' teachers, employers and others as needed, she said.

Povilaitis is due to be back in court Dec. 12 with an attorney. He remains free on bond.

If convicted of the felony charge, he faces penalties ranging from probation to one to three years in prison.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Jen R wrote on November 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

Damn it people, this is why we can't buy Sudafed.

Uh huh wrote on November 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

Meth is exactly what I was thinking as soon as I saw the original article.  It was nice of them to put other people's lives in danger so they could make a few bucks or get high.  Idiots.....

Utowner wrote on November 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

Meth is usually not the drug of choice among college students...it has a large following in rural communities, the urban gay community, and some Hispanic communities, particularly along the U.S. border with Mexico.  All three groups prefering different versions of the substance.  I will be very surprised, but not amazed, if this was a cook operation...

use er name wrote on November 28, 2012 at 11:11 am



DesmondMiles wrote on November 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I don't always put out fires in my kitchen but when I do I use a couch. 

jdmac44 wrote on November 29, 2012 at 8:11 am

Where I come from, we call that putting a log on the fire. lmao

rsp wrote on November 29, 2012 at 8:11 am

Always know what you're putting on the fire.


The series they ran in May on flame retardants was eye-opening.

Brandon Booher wrote on November 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Ahh yes...they make it look so easy on Breaking Bad

EdRyan wrote on November 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

FBI and bomb squad doesn't sound like he was cooking meth.  That would be more of a hazmat operation.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

A bomb?????  Maybe, he was making Christmas candles?

smokn69 wrote on November 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I can hear it now................ DUDE kitchen on fire DUDE ill get the couch......... priceless !!!!!!!!!

Local Yocal wrote on November 28, 2012 at 5:11 pm
Profile Picture

Not a problem....The U of I Student Discount at the State's Attorney's office will go into effect: negotiated plea of guilty to a reduced charge of a misdemeanor with court supervision at the most, won't miss a day of school, won't have a felony conviction. The felony charge is just for show.

Justsayit wrote on November 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm

So predictable.  

rsp wrote on November 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Everyone should know that when you get any kind of recipes off the internet it may not work out. You may get a bad dish, explosions, food poisioning, or a masterpiece. Real cookbooks are a must. They teach people what to look for. If you don't know what to look for, ask for help, take a class. Doesn't matter if it's food, or chemistry. 

jdmac44 wrote on November 29, 2012 at 8:11 am

From the people who brought you computer viruses, Nigerian scams and chain mail hoaxes...

wayward wrote on November 29, 2012 at 11:11 am

You mean making a cleaning solution by mixing bleach and ammonia together isn't a good idea?

rsp wrote on November 29, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Not without proper ventilation, mask, fire crew on standby.


Although I know people who mix-and-match all kinds of household cleaners without a thought. Eventually they will find that noxious combo to take out that stain if it kills them! 

wayward wrote on November 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm

You mean my trusty couch isn't enough?  Man, what a buzzkill.

rsp wrote on November 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Besides, think of all the loose change that could be in there. If it get's all chemically it will be lost forever. 

wayward wrote on November 30, 2012 at 11:11 am

Dude ... weed money for a week.

Jen R wrote on November 28, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I wish they'd make separate updates instead of just editing the article in place. The way the couch thing was originally phrased was classic .

americanproud wrote on November 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Jen, what did the original article say?  I missed it. 

And you guys are all hilarious!  Even though I missed the original article, I'm cracking up at your comical descriptions.  Thanks for making my day!  :)

makinthemagic wrote on November 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm

this is why you always get a chem major to help out.  the accounting major should be taking care of the proceeds.  know your role.

nndsmom wrote on November 30, 2012 at 10:11 am

Indeed, as a U of I alum with two accounting degrees, I would have highly recommended inviting over a chem major to help with this project.  We accounting majors never learned nothin' 'bout making no bombs in the kitchen...