Bomb blast in East Baltimore recalls similar 1994 explosion Resident injured when device on hood of pickup detonates

October 09, 1998|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Eric Siegel contributed to this article.

An East Baltimore man may have been the unintended victim of a pipe bomb explosion that occurred yesterday when he tried to remove a stereo placed on the hood of a parked pickup truck -- a vehicle owned by a neighbor who was the target of a similar bombing four years ago.

Johnson Locklear, 53, was at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in critical but stable condition with injuries to his torso and arms after the 4: 45 a.m. explosion in the first block of S. Chester St. near Patterson Park, authorities said.

The explosion, which resulted in the closing of several blocks of Lombard and Baltimore streets for three hours, was strikingly similar to an incident four years ago in the same neighborhood that severely maimed Frank Busnuk, the father of city police Capt. Gerard F. Busnuk. Frank Busnuk died in September 1997.

In the 1994 incident, Frank Busnuk suffered severe and permanent injuries after he unwittingly lifted a paint can from the roof of a Thunderbird automobile that belonged to another son, Paul Busnuk, outside his home in the 2100 block of E. Lombard St. That address is around the corner from yesterday's explosion.

Captain Busnuk said Paul Busnuk told him yesterday that the truck belonged to him.

Paul Busnuk did not return a message left on his answering machine, and no one answered a knock on his door.

Eleven months after the explosion that left Frank Busnuk partially blind and with his left arm amputated above the elbow and his right hand mangled, two men were convicted by a Baltimore Circuit Court jury of trying to kill Paul Busnuk in what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to retaliate against him for complaining about a loud party.

Both received lengthy prison sentences but a third man was acquitted of charges in the case.

A spokesman for city police, who are investigating the explosion along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said detectives would "certainly" look into whether the 1994 case and yesterday's explosion are related.

"Investigators will attempt to determine if there are connections between the two incidents," said police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr.

Peggy Pate, 51, who lives in the first block of S. Chester St., said she was asked by police what she knew about Paul Busnuk.

"Someone has got it in for him, and I don't know why," Pate said.

Pate and her neighbor, Shirley Mallec, 28, said there haven't been any serious problems in the neighborhood since the pipe bombing four years ago. They said both Busnuk and Locklear kept to themselves.

"I don't think the bomb was meant for Locklear," Mallec said.

Police were called to the area by residents who reported shots going off. When officers arrived on the scene, they found Locklear bleeding on the ground. Realizing that he had been injured by a bomb, not bullets, they called in city bomb technicians and ATF agents.

Mike Campbell, a special agent with the local office of the ATF, said six bombs were packed inside the stereo. Two exploded when Locklear picked up the stereo and the other four were deactivated by city bomb technicians, he said.

Campbell said the undetonated bombs and bomb fragments were taken to an ATF lab in Rockville for analysis.

He described the bombs as made of pipes packed with explosive powder and capped at the ends.

"[Locklear] ended up picking up an item off the hood of a vehicle. When he did, it blew up," Campbell said.

Annie Oxendine, 61, Locklear's estranged wife, said she was sleeping on the couch when the bomb went off just outside her door. "All I heard was a loud explosion; it sounded like a gun," she said.

She said Locklear was a janitor at Lexington Market.

Robin Ringgold, 36, who lives next door to Oxendine, said she was waiting at the bus stop with Locklear when he told her he was going to run home. Moments after he walked away, Ringgold said, she heard the explosion.

"I don't think it was meant for him," she said. "I think it was meant for who the truck belongs to."

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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