ATF: Explosives may be missing

High-explosives storage bunker of local company shows signs of forced entry

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

Federal and city authorities are investigating the apparent theft of explosives from an explosives dealer's storage bunkers in Juneau.

Investigators and officials from Alaska-Pacific Powder Co. on Saturday were still going over the inventory of explosives at the company's bunkers. They declined to say where those bunkers are.

Dave Gill, Alaska operations manager for Alaska-Pacific Powder Co., said it would be premature to call it a theft until the stocks have been checked.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Friday that sometime between July 2 and July 22 an unknown quantity of safety fuse and one-pound canisters of Pentex cast boosters, a high explosive, were taken from a steel bunker at the company.

The bunker showed signs of forced entry, said Brad Earman, an ATF special agent in Anchorage. It is a small steel building above-ground with walls about five-eighth of an inch thick, he said.

"At this point, we're going under the assumption there has been a theft," Earman said. "But if the inventory shows that all explosives have been accounted for, that would be the best-case scenario. Nothing would make us happier."

On July 8, an explosive device was found on a stump about 50 feet from a road at Tee Harbor. It contained about a half-pound of explosives with a blasting cap attached. Police destroyed the device.

Those explosives may be linked to the recently discovered forced entry, Earman said.

"We're looking into the possibility that they are," he said Saturday. But he added that the type of explosive is common.

Earman said the explosives believed to be missing now are of the same type found on July 8. They are bright orange cylinders, about 4 inches long, bearing the name Pentex 16. The fuse looks like clothes line, but it has a black powder core. The cylinders are roughly equivalent in force to a stick of dynamite.

They are commonly used in road and construction projects.

On Friday morning, the company notified authorities of the forced entry. The ATF issued a press release that afternoon, offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the recovery of the explosives or the arrest of a suspect. Citizens should report information to the police at 586-0600.

It's possible there was one theft earlier in the month, from which the explosives found on July 8 derive, Earman said. After the July 8 incident, Juneau police asked explosives dealers in the area to check their stocks. That led to the recent discovery of the forced entry at Alaska-Pacific Powder Co.

"It was solid police work that caused this theft to be discovered," Earman said.

Until the inventory is complete, it won't be clear what quantity of explosives, if any, were removed from the bunker, Earman said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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