published Saturday, May 18th, 2013

GBI probes bottle bombs in Fort Oglethorpe

  • photo
    The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will examine fragments of two plastic bottle bombs found May 9 in a Fort Oglethorpe neighborhood.
    Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will examine fragments of two plastic bottle bombs found May 9 in a Fort Oglethorpe neighborhood.

Greg Ramey, special agent in charge of the agency's 12-county Region 1 office in Calhoun, said the GBI will process the plastic shards that Fort Oglethorpe police collected in the 100 block of Van Cleve Street about half a mile away from the police station.

"Folks are sometimes sloppy and leave fingerprints on stuff," Ramey said.

The bombs consisted of two 2-liter plastic soda bottles in which chemicals were mixed with aluminum foil.

Such homemade explosives go by a variety of names. One is "The Works," for an inexpensive toilet bowl cleaner of that name that reacts with aluminum foil and causes the bottles to explode loudly. The blast releases hydrochloric acid and foil stripped of the protective wax it's coated with -- both of which can burn skin.

The Internet abounds with videos showing such bombs being set off for fun.

But police warn that these "overpressure devices" are unpredictable and can burn, maim and even blind an unsuspecting person who picks one up before it detonates -- or the person making the bomb.

"They're just dangerous. They're not safe," Chattanooga Police Bomb Squad Commander David Woolsey said. "People can be hurt."

Temperature is one variable that can lead to injuries, he said.

When it's 40 degrees outside, the bomb might not even go off, he said. But if it's 90 or 95, Woolsey said, "It's likely to go off while you're holding it."

"These are very, very temperature-sensitive," Woolsey said.

The Fort Oglethorpe devices may have been set off by teens as a prank, Ramey said, or they could have been the handiwork of someone with a grudge.

"It's hard to speculate," Ramey said. "You won't know until you get in and investigate it."

Fort Oglethorpe Interim Police Chief Jeff Holcomb couldn't be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a townshipÂąs government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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