A man collecting cans Tuesday near Stennis Space Center found nearly a dozen suspicious packages, which set off an investigation into possible explosives.
Wesley Alexander said he first saw the packages across a ditch and behind a dirt pile, along Mississippi 607 in the Stennis Space Center buffer zone.
"I cut into three of them," he said. "I saw glass and nails and newspaper-looking stuff inside, and I said, 'I need to get out of here.'
The Hancock County Sheriff's Department routinely patrols the buffer zone, and at about 2 p.m., Alexander stopped a deputy coming down the two-lane road.
Local authorities, sheriff's investigators, federal agents and Biloxi's bomb squad worked along the Pearlington highway for nearly four hours, puzzled by the packages.
"Anytime we find something suspicious, like these packages, we're concerned," said Brian Adam, the county's emergency management director.
The packages were balls of tightly wound plastic bags, individually wrapped with electrical tape, with nails, tacks and glass shavings inside. While the bomb squad detonated one of the packages, officials stopped short of calling it a bomb.
Adam said none of the packages were equipped with a trigger device - gunpowder, trip wire or electric detonator - so officials would only refer to them as "packages."
The strange packages have left local authorities and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigators with several unanswered questions: Who put them along the roadway in the Stennis buffer zone? Why were they there? And were they the beginning stages of a bomb?
Investigators were planning to seek answers throughout most of the night and into today.