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Restaurant Owner Bombs as Rocket Scientist

Times Staff Writer

Shortly before 11 o’clock Saturday night, an explosion ripped through the alley behind Bekker’s Bar-BQ at 7455 Mission Gorge Road.

Saturday was not the first time that explosions had been heard in the small Del Cerro shopping center. Residents and shop owners in the area said the blasts had been occurring for a year. No one knew what they were.

“We thought it was kids setting off cherry bombs,” said David Wentworth, manager of The Library, the bar next door to Bekker’s. “We just didn’t know. Now we do.”

Saturday night, a large explosion rocked the area behind Bekker’s and The Library. Both businesses suffered minor damage, and two patrons of the bar, who were in the alley, narrowly missed being struck by flying debris.

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Wentworth called 911. After obtaining a warrant, San Diego police searched Bekker’s, a popular barbecue restaurant specializing in beef, ham, chicken and spare ribs, and confiscated more than 300 pounds of black powder--the kind used to make homemade bombs.

Detectives arrested Oscar Worm, the 38-year-old proprietor of Bekker’s, whom they had detained at the site. Worm has operated the restaurant for 10 years; his family owned it for 20 years before that. Police said that Worm’s San Carlos home also was searched and more gunpowder was uncovered. He told them that setting off explosives was a hobby and that his goal was to make a homemade rocket, police said. He said he intended no harm to anyone.

Nevertheless, he was booked into San Diego County Jail on possession of a destructive device and possession of destructive material. He was behind bars from 12:35 a.m. Sunday until 3:10 p.m. that afternoon, when he was released on $10,000 bail.

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Monday morning, he was back at Bekker’s, carving up brisket.

Thursday afternoon, he was making small talk with the customers, among them a faithful clientele of senior citizens, most of whom seemed unaware or unfazed by Worm’s recent notoriety.

“Heard you got into some trouble, Oscar,” one grizzled customer muttered to Worm from the counter.

‘A Tourist Attraction’

“Yeah, but it’s been good for business,” said Worm, an orange-haired man of medium build, who wears glasses and drives a white delivery truck with Bekker’s painted on the side, in big red letters. Bekker’s is also a party caterer. “People are coming in here wanting to know where it blew out the door. The place has become a tourist attraction. Well, I didn’t blow out no door. People are making a big deal out of nothing.”

Apparently, local authorities don’t see it that way. Denis Love, a detective with the Metro Arson Strike Team (MAST), who investigated the case, said the file has been turned over to the district attorney’s office, pending prosecution. Love and other MAST investigators say explosions from homemade bombs are becoming more frequent and that the bombs are too easy to make.

“They were always easy to make, and now we’re constantly coming in contact with them,” Love said. “Not just this unit, but beat officers in the field come across them all the time. We find that explosive devices are frequently associated with dope and dope dealers. There was nothing drug-related in this case, however . . . absolutely nothing drug-related. This was just a guy who likes to make bombs.

“People use bombs for dope rip-offs, to protect their own kitchens, own stashes, or, for retaliation. Last year, we saw a dramatic increase in homemade bombs. Now, it’s continuing unabated.”

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Fellow shop owners--the neighbors of Bekker’s Bar-BQ--are outraged.

“I was shocked,” Wentworth said. “A little after 10:30 (Saturday night), I went out to the alley to show this guy my Cadillac. We saw sparks and then this explosion--boom! Later, I saw Oscar running to his car. I said, ‘Hey, Oscar, don’t leave. The police may want to talk to you.’

“Everyone in this center is stunned. Neighbors above the hill have been complaining about these explosions for a year but couldn’t isolate them. People could be hurt so easily. This is very, very dangerous.”

Worried About Safety

Julianne Leavy, the manager of BodyWorks, a women’s fitness club next door to Bekker’s, said that Worm’s interest in aerospace was a cause of some concern. She said she is worried for the safety of more than 600 BodyWorks clients and 15 staff members.

“Our tanning and massage salons share a wall with Bekker’s,” Leavy said. “If anyone got hurt, it would just be disastrous. To know that he’s making bombs over there--next door--is completely unacceptable. . . . For someone to put people’s lives and safety in jeopardy because of a little hobby is, well, it’s inconsiderate, to use a nice word. I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping nothing happens.”

Patrons leaving the restaurant Thursday also were surprised, but no one wished to be quoted by name.

“Yes, I’m surprised,” said a tall, middle-aged man leaving Bekker’s with his wife. “But shocked is a better word. I’ve known Oscar for 20 years. I can’t figure out why he would do something like this. He’s just not the terrorist type. I’m sure he meant no harm.”

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‘My Favorite Restaurant’

An elderly woman acknowledged that she was “very surprised” but said, “I hope Oscar doesn’t get in any big trouble with the law. This is my favorite restaurant.”

Asked about the incident, Worm reacted angrily.

“At this point, I haven’t gone down for my arraignment, so I can’t say much,” he said. “But I’ve been working hard down here for 10 years, and nobody seems to notice. As soon as somebody gets in trouble, people want to sling all of the mud at you that they can. They’re trying to do to me what they did to Steve Garvey. Folks I know in Malibu have even heard about this.

“Wow, it must be a slow news day, when a guy like me, working 60 to 80 hours a week, minding his own business, becomes the object of public concern. According to the statutes, what I did was serious, but, believe me, it had no criminal intent. I was just trying to make a rocket.”


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