SYRACUSE, Utah (ABC 4 News) - What appears to have started out as a teen aged prank has blown up into a full scale felony case of bomb-making in this Utah bedroom community.
With a few household items -- a plastic soda op bottle, a roll of aluminum foil and a popular household cleaner -- kids are building bombs that make the old cherry bombs look like firecrackers and can blow off an arm.
Teenagers call them "bottle bombs," "cleaner bombs," or "works bombs," after the brand of cleaner used to make them. Public safety officials call them chemical weapons.
"There've been reports of explosions that will actually break bones and take fingers off," says Syracuse Fire Captain Kyle Nance.
You can watch people – mostly teen aged boys – injure themselves, playing with these homemade explosives.
While most amateur pyro-technicians walk away without losing a limb, most of them seem completely unaware of the danger of the smoky residue after each blast, and walk or stand in it. They too are suffering injury from these explosions.
"You have the chemical reaction too,” says Captain Nance. “It's been known to cause second and third degree burns to the face and chest and to cause respiratory issues. These are life-changing injuries."
“There was a loud explosion in a neighborhood and we responded to it," says Syracuse Police Detective Corey Rowley.
Syracuse police telephone lines lit up last June. People were complaining of loud explosions outside their homes. Officers had a rash of bombings over last summer – more than twenty blasts. Behind them, a band of boys. When detectives sifted through the shrapnel, they found evidence of something far more dangerous than a teenager’s prank.
"What made this different then the other chemical explosions that we've had,” says Detective Rowley, “was that these particular explosions had projectiles included with the explosion, so it rose to a different level."
Investigators found air soft pellets and bee bees more than 100 feet from the blasts. Then, when they followed leads to the basement of a Syracuse home, they found what they call a bomb-making workshop. Among the supplies - steel shot and nails.
"It could create some dramatic damage to some people," says Detective Rowley.
Police arrested a 21 year-old hill air force base employee, Justin Goodrich. He now faces six felony counts of possession and use of explosive devices.
The Davis County attorney says he is aggressively prosecuting Goodrich – the first explosives case of this kind the county has ever had.
”We want to let him know as well as the public know that these are not simple playthings like throwing snowballs at somebody,” says County Attorney Rick Westmoreland. “These can literally cause death."
Police in other Utah cities say they see bottle bombs too. They’re asking ABC 4 to urge parents to pay attention. If your children collect these items, they may be building a bomb that could do serious damage to them or your property, or land them in jail.