A pipe bomb with the “force of a hand grenade” exploded inside a Postal Service metal mailbox near an Anaheim apartment complex early Thursday, sending fragments flying 100 feet, officials said.
No one was injured in the explosion, which was the fourth incident involving pipe bombs in Orange County this week. The bomb went off about midnight in the 1900 block of South Haster Street.
Postal Inspector Steve Schneringer said the blast dislodged the 100-pound box from its bolts. “It blew the front door completely off and sent it 100 feet across the street into a tree,” he said.
Sgt. Charles Stumph of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Hazardous Devices Squad said that “it’s a good thing” the bomb detonated at a time when there was no one on the street.
Hand Grenade Force
“In the early morning or late afternoon we probably would have had some major injuries and, possibly, fatalities,” he said.
“About the best thing you could compare it (the force of the pipe bomb) to is a military hand grenade,” Stumph said. “It has that kind of force.”
When a pipe bomb explodes, he said, it sends “numerous small, jagged pieces at a very high velocity, as fast as a bullet.”
However, officials said there was no damage to cars or property in the area. And Schneringer said all 37 pieces of mail in the box were salvageable despite the explosion.
Anaheim Police Lt. John Haradon said investigators had no suspects yet in the incident.
Postal authorities have offered a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person who planted the bomb.
“This is serious stuff. It’s not pranks,” said Schneringer, who added that planting the bomb is a violation of a relatively new federal law involving explosives that carries a maximum $250,000 fine and 10-year federal prison term.
Thursday’s pipe bomb explosion follows three other incidents earlier this week.
On Tuesday, a 14-year-old Esperanza High School student was arrested for allegedly placing a bomb on the roof of the school. The pipe bomb, which had a remote control detonating device, was removed and dismantled. No one was injured.
On Monday, the county bomb squad dismantled a pipe bomb in the Santa Ana River bed in Santa Ana.
And what appeared to be a pipe bomb was discovered Sunday propped up against an Iranian restaurant in the 1700 block of North Tustin Avenue in Orange, forcing the evacuation of five homes and 10 businesses. The bomb turned out to be a fake.
“As far as we can tell right now, none of them are connected,” Stumph said.
Law enforcement officials said last Friday’s bombing in San Diego may have sparked imitators. In that incident, the wife of the captain of the San Diego-based Navy ship Vincennes narrowly escaped injury when a bomb exploded in the van she had been driving.
Authorities have said that bombing may have been the work of terrorists seeking revenge for the Vincennes’ mistaken downing last July of an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 aboard.
“It’s absolutely a copycat situation and it’s scary,” Schneringer said. “But that’s my opinion.”
Officials said it’s “very simple” to make a pipe bomb because the materials needed are available in stores. But, they said, constructing them sometimes is “very deadly.”
“Many a bomber has been blown up constructing the bomb,” Schneringer said.
The pipe bomb that exploded in Anaheim on Thursday was believed to have been about 2 inches high, 2 inches wide and connected to a burning fuse, officials said. The remains of it were sent for analysis to the Postal Service’s National Crime Lab in Washington.
Schneringer said the Postal Service will begin circulating wanted posters today in an effort to find the person or persons who planted the bomb.
Anyone with information about the incident was asked to call postal inspectors at a toll-free number, (800) 847-8847. The number is a 24-hour line and calls will be kept confidential.