Bomb discovered during Calif. warrant arrest

By Mike De La Cruz
The Merced Sun-Star

Police officers found what appeared to be a bomb during a vehicle stop Monday in central Merced. A nearby school was locked down, three people ultimately were arrested and the device was detonated by officers.

The incident began when a pickup in which a suspected warrant absconder was riding was stopped on Glen Avenue. Officers noticed what appeared to be a pipe bomb in the truck's glove compartment and the Merced Police Bomb Squad was called in to investigate.

The squad removed the bomb and took it to a safe spot, where it was detonated.

Pickup occupants Charles Wake, 53, the driver, and Marisel Perez, 36, were detained and Jose Bowker, 34, the suspected warrant violator, was arrested. All are from Merced.

Additionally, a 2-year-old boy belonging to Perez was found on the floorboard of the pickup.

Sheriff's STAR Deputy Kevin Blake, who headed the search for Bowker, said the arrests were made around 10 a.m.

He and State Parole Agent Craig Donnahoe were looking for Bowker in an area he frequents when they saw him and Perez get into a Chevrolet Silverado driven by Wake.

While searching Perez's purse, the deputy reportedly found three plastic bags of what he believed to be methamphetamine.

In the open glove compartment Blake reportedly found the explosive device he described as a six-inch-long pipe with the bottom wrapped in duct tape.

Officers closed Glen Avenue between East 19th and 21st streets and several homes were evacuated.

To ensure safety for schoolchildren, Charles Wright Elementary School was locked down at the request of the sheriff's department until the bomb was removed, Blake said.

Bowker, a validated Norteno criminal street gang member, was booked into Merced County Jail on suspicion of possession of an explosive device, child endangerment, and no-bail probation violation.

He remained in custody Monday on the no-bail violation, said sheriff's spokeswoman Christine Krebs-Belluomini.

Perez was booked on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, transportation of a controlled substance for sale, possession of an explosive device, and child endangerment. She remained in custody in lieu of $20,200.

Wake was booked on suspicion of possession of an explosive device with bail set at $5,000. The 2-year-old boy was turned over to Merced County Child Protective Services.

Copyright 2006 The Merced Sun-Star
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