Can you detect a package bomb? 6 tips that could save you and your family
A trooper details what happened after a package sent by a previously arrested suspect to the trooper's home exploded, tearing out the trooper's eye and severing his hand
This article is reprinted with permission from Calibre Press.
Having an explosive package delivered to your home is likely not something you think about when it comes to the risks of the job. It wasn’t to a trooper, but that changed after a suspect he stopped for simply missing a plate immediately became belligerent. What was going to be a verbal warning suddenly escalated into a near physical confrontation that led to an arrest, which almost three years later led to six sticks of dynamite blowing up on the trooper in his home.
During the arrest, the trooper reported having a gut feeling the driver was bad news. “He had a really deep, mean stare,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’ve arrested someone serious here.’'
Although the suspect stared at the trooper during court proceedings, he never directly threatened him.
“For a year after that, I was really cautious,” the trooper recalled. “I kept an eye out for anyone following me and stayed alert for this guy. After a year of nothing, I let my guard down. About a year later, my wife started getting harassing phone calls. It wasn’t long after that the package arrived.”
The delivery occurred just days before the trooper’s birthday. That timing proved nearly deadly. “I had just read an emotional letter from my son, who was in the military. He wrote that he had a birthday present on the way to me. Then, my wife brought me a box that had just been delivered to our front door. I just assumed it was the present from my son. I started to cut the tape around the box…and it blew up in my face.”
The previously arrested suspect and an accomplice had filled the box with fence post staples, nails and six sticks of dynamite. Pressure release switches were rigged to trigger an explosion when the tape was cut.
The blast lifted the trooper off the ground and tore out his left eye and severed his left hand. It also tore the left side of his body wide open and blew out his eardrums. “It was very powerful.”
The brutal violation of the trooper’s home sent shock waves through the law enforcement community, including officers’ families, most specifically, their children. What had always been considered a safe haven where bad guys couldn’t get them – home – was now considered vulnerable.
When asked what advice he would give fellow officers to help reduce their exposure to an attack like this, his first piece of advice was that you make a family rule that all packages, no matter who they’re addressed to, go into the garage. “They aren’t opened until Mom or Dad…whoever is the cop…comes home and does it. Then, he suggested educating yourself on the characteristics of package bombs. Some key things to look for:
- Unusually heavy packages.
- Excessive wrapping tape. Package bombs are usually pressure sensitive. The bomber wants to be sure it doesn’t explode before it’s in the hands of his target.
- Excessive postage…more than appears normal. The bomber wants to avoid any chance of returned mail.
- Stains and/or odors from any liquid accelerants that may have leaked during shipping.
- Wires poking out.
- An illegible or missing return address.
“If you have the slightest doubt,” the trooper advised, “don’t hesitate to have it checked out!” A local bomb squad can take care of that for you.
He also advises doing background checks if your sixth sense tells you something might be wrong. In the case of this suspect, it turns out he was involved with explosives in the military. He also had an extensive history of violence.
“I don’t want to make cops and their families paranoid,” the trooper shared. “This is a reality of police work. Retaliation against police officers is on the rise. You and your family have got to stay alert and educated.”