How the Hell Did a 17-Year-Old Get the Materials to Make Bombs?

Chalk this up under Near Disasters. Earlier today police arrested a 17-year-old who was allegedly putting together bomb-making materials in order to wage war on his former high school and "cause more casualties than were suffered at Columbine."

What in the hell? Yes, it's horrible that someone that young could be that disturbed, but more importantly, how could such a disturbed, under-aged kid get his hands on the materials to make bombs? Well, let's see.

I recently learned from Lt. Mike Jackson, Bomb Squad Commander of the Oklahoma City Police Department, that roughly 90 percent of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) they encounter in the field are pipe bombs. Sure enough, that's what this kid seems to have been intending to build. Details have been scarce, but according to the MSNBC piece he had in his possession "timing and fusing devices, and other material that could have been used to make a bomb such as fuel sources, shrapnel and plastic tubing." Let's break those down.

Note: Never, ever, EVER attempt to build one of these things. Seriously, I will punch you in the face SO hard.

The Pipe
The pipe is the case for this bag of horrible, but it's not just so you can carry it around and keep it together. The pipe is where the pressure comes from, thus greatly amplifying the explosion (and destruction). The most common materials used are metal pipes with threaded ends or PVC pipe. It sounds like this kid had the latter, but both are easily obtainable from any hardware store.

The Fuel Source (Propellant)
This is the stuff that makes it go boom. I was floored by just how many different materials can be used. Some work better than others, but many can be obtained from hardware stores and farm supply depots. If he made friends with someone in demolition, he could have really upped the ante. I don't know what this guy was going to use and I'm not going to posit any theories, because this isn't a how-to, but suffice to say it's alarming how easy it can be.

How the Hell Did a 17-Year-Old Get the Materials to Make Bombs?

The Shrapnel
Not all pipe bombs contain shrapnel. It takes a real special kind of asshole to include it. Shrapnel is the stuff that tears through human beings. It's fucking awful. Typically screws, nails, nuts, and bolts are used. Shit like that. (I can't even talk about shrapnel without getting angry.) When the bomb goes boom, the shrapnel flies everywhere at very high speeds and causes a whole lot of harm. Terrible.

The Fuse
The fuse is how the spark gets into the bomb and ignites it. It can be as simple as pulling a fuse out of a firework, the engine off a model rocket, or they could jerry-rig another solution if they need a little more oomph to set the thing off (depends on the propellant).

The Timing Device
Basically, it can be as simple a clock with a mechanical component. They just need to rig it so that when the alarm goes off, the battery supplies a spark big enough to lite the fuse. Again, available pretty much anywhere.

And that's how easy it can be for a sicko to scrape together a way kill a whole bunch of innocent people. That and a seriously fucked up mind. I'm extremely grateful that this near-catastrophe was averted, but it's incredibly alarming how hard things like this are to actually prevent. If you're a parent, pay attention to your kid and what he's doing. This particular teenager was building this stuff in his own room (along with a crop of weed). That kind of absentee parenting is inexcusable. [MSNBC}

Image credit: AP/Jim Mone and Flickr/Matt Mordfin


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