Lethal explosives found, disabled at Sacramento elementary school before children arrived, officials say

The exterior of Ethel I. Baker Elementary School in Sacramento.
A pair of explosive devices were found Tuesday at Ethel I. Baker Elementary School in Sacramento.

A pair of explosive devices on Tuesday morning were found lying on a sidewalk outside a Sacramento elementary school, just before a group of children were expected to arrive, authorities said.

Around 8:30 a.m., a proctor discovered what turned out to be a pipe bomb and a homemade gun, known as a zip gun, at the northeast corner of Ethel I. Baker Elementary, “literally where kids walk onto the grounds,” said Sgt. Rod Grassmann, spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.

The proctor — who was with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America — alerted school officials, who then called the Sheriff’s Office, Grassmann said. A bomb squad was sent in and found that the devices were active. They were rendered safe by 12:30 p.m. Less than two hours later, law enforcement disposed of the devices, which Grassmann described as “both very lethal.”


The sealed pipe bomb contained metal shrapnel, fireworks and gasoline. The gun, filled with a type of buckshot, was designed to send the ammo flying if triggered.

About 48 students were supposed to arrive on campus for classes not long after the explosives were discovered, Grassmann said.

Although the Sacramento City Unified School District, of which Baker Elementary is a part, is still closed, a select group of students without access to the internet or computers are permitted to learn on campus, Grassmann said. Baker Elementary partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to help supervise the on-campus distance learning.

A suspect has not been identified yet, Grassmann said. Law enforcement collected evidence and continue to canvass the neighborhood for potential witnesses and possible video recordings of the incident.

Bomb-sniffing dogs were deployed throughout Baker Elementary, and nothing else was found, Grassmann said. Class was canceled for the children who were supposed to arrive that day, and it’s not clear when it will resume because calls to the school were not answered.

Sacramento city schools have been closed nearly a year during the COVID-19 pandemic and are slated to reopen next month.

Officials asked that anyone with information about the incident call the Sheriff’s Office at (916) 874-5115.