Police list explosives uncovered

Rocket launcher, mortar found in Ellicott City home

`I am greatly embarrassed'

Laney held in lieu of $2 million bond

BATF investigating

July 22, 2000|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

The arsenal found in Richmond Laney's Ellicott City home -- which included a rocket launcher with a live 81 mm round and a 60 mm mortar -- could have resulted in deaths and the destruction of numerous buildings, a weapons expert said yesterday.

"That list of materials suggests he had some pretty significant plans," said Natalie Goldring, executive director of the Program on General Disarmament at the University of Maryland.

"The bottom line here is that his collection of weapons and explosives shouldn't be in private hands," she said.

Howard County police released a list yesterday that details the explosives that officers discovered July 14 in Laney's home on Fels Lane.

Among the explosive ma- terials were twenty-six M228 fuses for hand grenades, one M201A1 grenade fuse, three unknown types of grenade fuse and one M51 fuse.

The fuses often are used as diversionary devices and training troops to use fragmentation grenades, according to an Army manual.

The list also includes two M18 smoke grenades, three 20 mm practice shells, two commercial blasting caps, 20 feet of commercial detonation cord, 17 hand grenade simulators, 4 pounds of smokeless powder and one container of an unknown quantity of black powder.

The grenade simulators can stop the heart if detonated within 6 inches of the chest, according to the list released yesterday. The grenade fuses found at the scene each contained enough explosive force to hurt or kill someone, the police list indicated.

A mortar is a short-range artillery piece with a short barrel. It fires an explosive projectile in a high arch, enabling it to get over hills and walls.

It has the capability of "killing a fair number of people in a small space," said Goldring, who heads a research and training program that examines the prospect for significant reductions in conventional and nuclear weapons.

A narrative police attached to Laney's charging documents described more powerful explosive ingredients. Police recovered nitric acid, glycerin and sulfuric acid, ingredients for making nitroglycerin.

"Nitroglycerin is one of the most important and frequently used components of explosive materials. It is used in dynamite," Detective Donald J. Guevara wrote in the narrative.

Guevara also wrote that he believed he had found a "partially completed ... pipe bomb."

With Laney behind bars, Howard County police said they had averted a possible tragedy. Bail was set at $2 million.

"The types of explosives found in Mr. Laney's home were obviously of a serious nature, and investigators were concerned to find such serious devices in the community," said Sherry Llewellyn, spokeswoman for county police.

Federal investigators are trying to figure out where the weapons came from.

"We're tracing everything we can through our system, and our weapons unit in Washington is looking at the weapons for federal violations," said Special Agent Mike Campbell, spokesman for the Baltimore office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Command is also looking into how Laney obtained the weapons, Campbell said.

Although a complete list of weapons has not been released, investigators have catalogued the rocket launcher and round, a disassembled .50-caliber machine gun, rifles and various kinds of ammunition.

"It's unlikely that he amassed this all at once," Goldring said. "That suggests repeated infractions, repeated breakdowns in the security system."

Laney, 43, is being held at the Howard County Detention Center. He has been charged with 58 counts of possession of a destructive device, two counts of possession with intent to manufacture a destructive device and one count of reckless endangerment.

"I am greatly embarrassed by this," Laney said during a bond hearing Monday. "I'm not a threat to anybody."

Campbell said federal charges could come "in the next week or so."

To be in violation of federal law, investigators must determine that the weapons are automatic.

"This story could have had a much less happy ending," Goldring said.

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