Bomb not intended for principal, fire chief says A hand-off was intended

3 students in custody

March 01, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The homemade explosive device found in a student's locker by the principal of a Montgomery County middle school was not intended to harm anyone in the building, authorities said yesterday.

Instead, Rocky Hill Middle School in semirural Clarksburg was being used as a transfer point for the incendiary device, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Capt. John Rooney said yesterday.

"Someone made it, and brought it to school to give to another kid," Rooney said. "The target was nobody in school."

Earlier accounts said Principal Alan L. Stein was the intended target of the bomb, which was reported to him before school began Friday by two 14-year-olds who saw the device in a fellow student's book bag.

Stein found the device in a second-floor locker and immediately pulled a fire alarm and evacuated the 750 students and their teachers.

Montgomery County school officials said they would prosecute the youths responsible, because the device "created a clear and present danger" to the school and its occupants.

Three teen-agers implicated in the incident were arrested and charged as juveniles with first-degree assault and possession of an explosive device, both felonies.

The three youths were being held pending a hearing.

Authorities still do not know what the bomb was intended for, Rooney said, nor the source of bomb-making information.

The principal said other students were saying it came from "The Anarchist Cookbook" on the Internet.

"Three-quarters of our kids have computers," Stein said.

The book is a 1971 underground classic written by William Powell. It appeared on the Internet several years ago and has frequently been cited as the source of bomb-making information by people across the country.

Incidents involving homemade explosives have quadrupled in the last decade, Detective Jim Giebel of the Baltimore County bomb squad said, with much of the information coming from the Internet. "There's just so much [information] out there," he said.

Unpredictable devices

"It's a testosterone-caused problem," said Giebel, a 10-year bomb squad veteran.

Most of the young males involved have no idea of the extent of damage they can cause, Giebel said. That, combined with a typical lack of technical ability, make the devices unpredictable, he said.

Seeing a message on the Internet that says, "Tell me about making Bomz," is scary, Giebel said.

At Rocky Hill Middle School on Friday, a 4-foot by 10-foot section of hallway wall and three ceiling tiles were scorched when a bomb squad robot dismantled the device and a small fire ensued. Stein said the damage was repaired by yesterday, when students and their families came to retrieve belongings left in Friday's hasty evacuation.

The principal, a 26-year educator, said yesterday that he hasn't fully come to grips with the incident. "I'm shaken."

Community outpouring

Stein was glad to learn that he was not the target of the bomb, but said it makes no difference "in terms of the safety and jeopardy of students and staff in the building."

"The adrenalin is still going," he said as he welcomed hundreds of students and their families back into the 3-year-old building.

"There are balloons, cards, letters, hugs," he said -- "a real outpouring from the community."

A meeting will be held Monday night at nearby Damascus High School, Stein said, to discuss the incident and reassure the public.

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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