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Ashtabula captain says device found was a 'true explosive.'

By:  News Herald - Diana Lewis

Ashtabula police officials said a chemical-based bottle bomb which exploded in a residential neighborhood May 5 could have been a "prank." The device that three young Ashtabula boys found late Sunday evening in Saybrook Township was not a prank. According to Ashtabula Police Capt. P.F. DiAngelo, uniform division commander, the 10-inch pipe bomb was a "true explosive device."

It was made out of 11/4-inch white plastic piping, with two end caps. One cap was drilled out to hold the green fuse, and the pipe was filled with gunpowder, DiAngelo said. According to police information, an 11-year-old Stark Avenue boy and two friends, ages 10 and 9, were hunting for frogs in a creek on the east side of Cemetery Road, about 20 to 30 feet south of the back property line of St. Joseph's Cemetery. They discovered the device about 3 to 5 feet down an embankment, DiAngelo said. The oldest boy picked it up and carried it to the other boys' home, in the 2100 block of Norman Avenue in Ashtabula.

"One of the parents called the police, and they were instructed to take it outside, put it down and get away from it," DiAngelo said. The Ashtabula Fire Department was dispatched to the scene and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms was notified, DiAngelo said. However, the local police couldn't get a bomb squad dispatched to help out, so officers had to "think on (our) feet and improvise," DiAngelo said.

"Our police department has flak jackets left over from government surplus," DiAngelo said. "They're kind of like bullet-proof vests, but they are used to stop shrapnel." DiAngelo said officers wrapped up the bomb in several of the flak jackets and stored it in a secure location until Monday morning. The bomb was taken to the police department's shooting range about 9 a.m. Monday, where Ashtabula County Special Weapons and Tactics team sniper/sharpshooter Jim Burton, shot at it with a high-powered rifle, causing it to detonate.

Burton is a deputy with the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Department, which helped with the multi-jurisdictional investigation. "It was found in sheriff's department jurisdiction, but was carried into the city," DiAngelo said. Every piece of the exploded bomb was recovered as evidence, and an investigation is continuing into its origins. DiAngelo said there is some speculation that the bomb could have been thrown from a vehicle on the secluded side road.

"We don't think it was there very long, maybe just that day," DiAngelo added. "We searched for others, but didn't find anything." DiAngelo said the components of the bomb are readily available. But he said the bomb was "far more advanced" than the chemical bottle bomb which exploded in the driveway of a South Hamlin Drive residence two weeks ago. Ashtabula Police Chief David Colucci advised civilians to be very cautious if they find something that looks like a bomb. "Call the police immediately," the police chief said. "Don't touch it." Colucci also asked parents to talk with their children about the bomb, and explain the danger.

Even though the person or persons who built the bomb could be adults, Colucci suggested that parents keep an eye on children who may be "messing around, maybe working on a 'school project.' " "If there are kids cutting plastic pipe, or you find pieces of plastic pipe, anything like that, be aware that this is what is used to construct these bombs," Colucci said. "Parents are going to have to be diligent."

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