Discovery of explosives touches off a mystery Agencies shy away from investigation

April 20, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

WANTED: Experienced investigator familiar with military explosives to figure out how a bag of stolen Army ordnance got into a Pasadena lake.

Must be willing to work long hours and not get frustrated by government bureaucracy. Respond within 30 days or the Army will destroy the evidence.

The story, which began Saturday afternoon when 15-year-old Brandon Edge found a bag of bombs, including a Claymore anti-personnel mine, has only grown stranger as various agencies have backed away from working on the probe.

"It seems nobody wants to touch it," said Capt. Gary Sheckells, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, who wasn't even sure yesterday whether his agency had responded to the call. "Obviously, somebody has to investigate," he said.

Brandon, who lives in Essex and was visiting his father in Pasadena, was fishing in Lake Waterford Park when he stumbled upon the olive-green bag containing a Claymore mine, six trip flares, four blocks of C-4 plastic explosives, three wire firing devices and two rolls of trip wire.

After playing with the devices for a while, Brandon called police, who said they called the Fire Department, who reportedly called an Army disposal unit at Fort Meade and evacuated part of the park.

Don McClow, a spokesman for Fort Meade, said an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit took the munitions to a secure storage bin on base, where they will be detonated in 30 days if no one claims them or starts an investigation.

Here's where the mystery begins.

A spokesman for the state fire marshal's office said Sunday night that his agency was not involved in the case.

Mr. McClow said the Army criminal investigations division at Fort Meade doesn't have jurisdiction because the ordnance wasn't found on U.S. government property. And Fort Meade isn't missing any bombs, anyway, he said -- at least since 1990.

"I guess the question you are asking is, 'Who is in charge?' " Mr. McClow said. "If it was near our property, then no problem. But I'm not sure who has the jurisdiction -- or who wants jurisdiction."

He suggested that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms might be a good agency to probe the stolen goods.

But Army officials can't call them, he said. That has to be done by a civilian agency.

Roy Cheeks, a spokesman for the bureau office in Baltimore, said he doesn't know how his agents found out about the case but that his office is interested in helping the military "find the person who did this and arrest him so he doesn't do it again. I'm certain we are keeping in some type of contact with the military."

Anne Arundel County police, who responded to the call and wrote a report, said the munitions were stolen, but Mr. McClow said officials do not know where they came from or even how old they are.

He said no serial numbers were on the devices.

The Fort Meade spokesman also said that the mine -- an M-18A1 -- was not armed, though two detonators, or blasting caps, were found in the bag.

"It was not fully assembled," Mr. McClow said. "A knowledgeable person could have put it together and made it into something very nasty."

He said the disk-shaped mine contains 701 pellets and one pound of C-4 explosives.

It is designed to detonate on impact and is used in wartime against infantry units.

Mr. McClow said the blocks of C-4 also were lacking detonators and were not very dangerous because the material is stable.

Although few agencies appear interested in the munitions, Captain Sheckells is optimistic.

"I'm sure somebody is doing something," he said. "It's just that all the pieces haven't been put together."

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