Grenade look-alike raises roof Lawyer's plan to help client empties government building in Salisbury

November 02, 1996|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

It was a grenade that got out of hand, so to speak.

When Salisbury lawyer Robert Spery went to court Thursday, he thought he would be defending a client in a domestic dispute case.

Instead, he found himself at the center of a swirl of events that routed 450 people from a downtown government building for most of the day, brought the state fire marshal's bomb squad -- five men and a robot -- across the Bay Bridge and destroyed the dummy grenade he had hoped would exonerate his client.

"That thing was nothing but a hunk of steel; it was a paperweight," said Spery yesterday. "The fire marshal has a protocol they're hiding behind -- you're dealing with a bunch of zealots here."

Spery's client, whom he declined to name, was accused of threatening his wife and family with a grenade in September. But the grenade was a dummy, and to show Elizabeth Ireland, prosecuting attorney, that there was no real threat of violence, Spery obtained what he says was an identical dummy grenade from a friend.

Unable to reach Ireland by phone, Spery said he went to the courthouse Thursday before the hearing scheduled for his client. The dummy grenade was sitting in a drink holder of his Ford Explorer, parked about 50 feet from the building. He said he didn't want to take it inside.

So he went in, found Ireland and asked her to come outside and look at the dummy grenade. She declined to do so. Instead, she told Ruxton Bramble, a member of the state fire marshal's office who was to testify in the case, about the grenade.

Then, events began to spiral out of control, Spery says, despite pleas from local police officers and two judges that state intervention was unnecessary.

The bomb squad was summoned. The Paul Martin Multi-Service Center, which houses 27 county and state agencies, including the court, was evacuated for several hours.

The squad used a robot to remove the grenade, which was taken to a nearby parking lot and "disrupted," the term the fire marshal's office prefers to "exploded" or "blown up."

"All of our procedures were followed," says Warren Gott, the bomb squad commander who supervised the handling of the grenade.

No charges were filed. Spery's case was continued.

Davis Ruark, Wicomico state's attorney, characterized Thursday's events as an "unfortunate occurrence," but declined to comment further.

Pub Date: 11/02/96

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