4 Teen-Agers Held in Theft of Explosives


Four teen-agers from the Canyon Country area have been arrested on suspicion of stealing more than 700 pounds of explosives from a rock quarry and stashing them next to the Metrolink train tracks in Santa Clarita, sheriff’s investigators said Friday.

The youths apparently chose the location simply as a hiding place while they tried to sell the explosives, because they were familiar with the area, not because they intended to blow up a train, said Lt. Bill Christiansen, head of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s bomb and arson unit.

“We don’t think it had anything to do with sabotage or train sabotage or anything such as that,” he said.


Some of the stolen explosives, which were hidden in two locations, were found only 10 yards from the track.

Christiansen absentmindedly squeezed one roll of explosives as he explained its power to reporters at a news conference Friday.

But he appeared relieved that investigators had tracked down the 450 pounds of commercial explosive known as “Iremite,” 200 pounds of dynamite booster and 1,200 feet of detonator cord, also considered an explosive. Dynamite booster receives the charge from the blasting cap, ensuring detonation of the explosive.

The material was allegedly taken in a burglary earlier this week from the P.W. Gillibrand Rock Quarry in Canyon Country.

To describe its power, Christiansen said 400 pounds of the same explosive destroyed a 300-ton rock that tumbled onto Malibu Canyon Road during mudslides in March.

“They were missing one component to really make this work,” Christiansen said. “That was the blasting caps.”


Such thefts are rare because of strict controls on the manufacture and storage of explosives, Christiansen said, estimating that the material could “probably bring $500 dollars a stick” on the illicit market. He guessed that the cache contained roughly 180 sticks.

The four teen-agers were booked for investigation on charges of burglary and possession of explosives. Sheriff’s deputies identified them as Joel Soltero, 18; Larry Blevins, 19; Regan Coultas, 19, and Jerry Donegan, 19. Each was held in lieu of $500,000 bail. Arraignments are expected next week.

Investigators declined to say whether they were linked to any larger gangs or movements, and to whom they were trying to sell the explosives. “I wouldn’t characterize them as skinheads in the true sense of the word,” Christiansen said, refusing to elaborate.

Sheriff’s bomb and arson investigators, who had placed a public appeal for help in tracking the stolen explosives, got a break from officers in the sheriff’s Metrolink unit.

That unit had been frustrated by a series of six acts of vandalism at Control Point Humphreys, a switching station just north of Santa Clarita. The vandals used heavy objects to smash electronic equipment in the shed, causing $300,000 in damage over time.

Investigators staked out the switching station and subsequently arrested two of the Canyon Country teen-agers, said Lt. Marc Klugman, commander of the Metrolink unit.


While interviewing them, deputies found manufacturer’s instructions for use of commercial explosives, and contacted the bomb squad, which verified that the instructions fit those that accompanied the stolen explosives.

The bomb squad investigators brought in Rally, a bomb-sniffing dog, who authorities say indicated that vehicles used by Soltero and Blevins held the scent of explosives, leading to the four arrests.

The arrests were especially gratifying to the Metrolink unit, which usually deals with cases such as shopping carts being left on the train tracks or rocks being thrown at the trains.

“This is probably as important a case as we’ve had,” Klugman said.