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FBI looks to help St. Louis-area residents secure things that go boom

Inert hand grenades are displayed on Monday at the FBI’s St. Louis office during a press conference for the Bomb Tech Task Force’s explosive ordnance recovery week.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Inert hand grenades are displayed on Monday at the FBI’s St. Louis office during a press conference for the Bomb Tech Task Force’s explosive ordnance recovery week.

The St. Louis office of the FBI and six local bomb squads have launched a weeklong effort to get military explosives out of the homes of area residents.

Bomb technicians regularly get calls from residents who find old grenades that a loved one brought home as a souvenir of their time in the military, said Spencer Evans, the interim special agent in charge of the FBI locally. Others purchase shells or explosives at gun shows, thinking they are replicas.

“It really takes someone with specific knowledge and experience and training to be able to identify what is a live device and what is inert,” Evans said. “Some of the fakes are very realistic. When in doubt, give us a call so our folks can come and check it out.”

St. Louis FBI detonates Civil War-era cannonballs

Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found three Civil War-era cannonballs while dredging the Mississippi River in south St. Louis. FBI bomb technicians transported them to a local firing range and detonated them safely.

Residents in Missouri and the Metro East are urged to call 314-589-2680 if they find something that might be dangerous. Responding officers will ask questions so they know what the bomb experts might be dealing with, Evans said, but they are not looking to press charges.

The initiative, launched Monday, was not inspired by a particular incident, Evans said, but he added that the number of calls for unexploded ordnance has ticked up in the past six months. Earlier this month, for example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found three Civil War-era cannonballs while dredging the Mississippi River.

Last summer, Brian Reimer, the commander of the St. Charles County bomb squad, responded to a home where the resident had found two Chinese hand grenades, an American grenade and a Claymore landmine. The caller’s father had brought them home with him from the Vietnam War.

Technicians weren’t as concerned about the American explosives, Reimer said, because they were better quality.

“The stuff that the Chinese were using was kind of questionable at best, and after a while it can kind of degrade and cause a huge problem,” he said.

Explosives are secured in metal containers and then transported to a local firing range, where they are detonated in a controlled environment.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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