Bomb squad detonates grenade at apartment

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

Carlos Ortiz knew a metal container he bought at a local recycling facility wasn’t empty although “Empty” was printed on it. In fact, the container he’d just bought actually held an explosive device.
Ortiz, who lives at 322 S. Church St., Apt. B, immediately called authorities upon opening the container and finding a live grenade inside.
He called the Salisbury Police, who secured the area and called in the Cabarrus County Bomb Squad.
Ortiz went to Foil’s Recycling Inc., on Klumac Road, earlier Friday evening to sell scrap metal.
“I saw the piece. I said, ‘I’d like to have it,’ ” Ortiz said.
He received money for the metal he’d brought in and had the gray metal box weighed.
He paid $7.80 for the box, which weighed 26 pounds. The military-style box was vacuum-sealed, Ortiz said.
The box had four handles and four locking mechanisms, he said.
The words empty were written in several places on the box. When he pried the locks with a hammer claw the pressure released. The gray metal box had a flute box inside it.
Ortiz opened the music instrument box, which held what appeared to be a radar detector with wiring wrapped around it.
He lifted the padding and underneath was a grenade with a green 3-inch thick, 5-inch long fuse coming from it.
He opened the box around 2:30 p.m. and an hour later he and the rest of the tenants at residence were waiting outside for the bomb squad. The home is divided into individual apartments.
Ortiz closed the containers and placed them on the back of his trailer, attached to his pickup. The truck was parked on the side of the house in the driveway.
He was told the employees at Foil’s Recycling had tried to open the box, even kicking it around, but did not have any luck.
Ortiz, who has been selling items at the Webb Road flea market for the last four years was hoping to sell the box. He typically sells tools and military type pieces. Ortiz has never served in the military, but his father was in the military, he said.
Ortiz’s girlfriend, Darlene Lester, who was inside when he opened the box, told him to call 911.
Lester said she didn’t think the device would’ve caused this much commotion.
“I thought they would grab the box and leave,” she said.
Lester said she always told Ortiz he was going to get into trouble one day bringing stuff home.
Officials were grateful Ortiz called 911.
Tommy Sanchez and Tim Ogden also live at 322 S. Church St. Sanchez came outside the apartment with no shoes and was allowed to go back inside quickly for some shoes and socks, he said.
Ogden said he thought Sanchez was joking when he said there was a bomb outside the apartment.
“I just thought he was playing with me,” Ogden said.
The Salisbury Police Department evacuated the apartments and other residents on the block.
The Cabarrus County bomb squad safely detonated an improvised explosive device behind the home, said David Montague, safety officer with the Cabarrus County Bomb Squad.
The team used a robot to get a closer look at the device, followed by two members of the bomb squad. The members of the bomb squad donned green protective suits and made their way to the house.
It took the men a few moments before they returned to the mobile bomb squad truck across the street, behind LaCava restaurant.
Montague said the bomb squad team used the robot to move the device from the back of the pickup to the backyard where it was detonated onsite. The bomb was detonated shortly before 5 p.m.
The squad used a counter-charge to detonate the device, he said.
The device was placed inside a 2-foot hole behind the house the squad dug in the ground.
The bomb squad responds to incidents in a five county area, of which Rowan County is one.
“The police did an excellent job with containment,” Montague said.
There was a chemical inside the grenade, Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins said.
The chemical was not a black powder, but the grenade did have a detonation cord that ran through the top of it.
“Since the bottom of the grenade was enclosed, it did make it a live grenade,” he said.
Bomb squad officials told Collins the grenade was “charged and ready to go.”
“Any movement that jostled it to a certain point could’ve caused it to explode,” Collins said.
The Police are investigating the origin of the container
When asked if Ortiz was ever in immediate danger, Collins said the grenade could’ve detonated while Ortiz handled it.
An agent with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will collect the evidence, Collins said.
As time went on, more and bystanders began walking and driving into the parking lot behind the restaurant. Some bystanders just wanted to see about the commotion.
Elijah Caraway was one those bystanders. Caraway was near J.C. Price Legion building when he saw the helicopters flying overhead while leaving work. He is a bus driver for Head Start.
“I got in my car and drove,” he said.
He stood in the parking lot for about 45 minutes before heading home.
“It’s exciting. It draws a lot of attention to Salisbury,” Caraway said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.