Published May 15, 2013
| Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – A police bomb squad detonated 17 homemade explosive devices found in an apartment on Wednesday after a routine traffic stop revealed a potentially dangerous liquid in a man's car, authorities said.
Robert Wilson, 29, was taken into custody and booked on felony possession of a destructive device, police Sgt. Rudy Lopez said. Authorities believe the man was acting alone, and said there were no apparent links to terrorism.
"This appears to be an individual who was just very curious with explosive devices and then manufactured them," police spokesman Sgt. Frank Preciado said.
The bomb squad went to an apartment complex in the Palms neighborhood of west Los Angeles after officers stopped Wilson for improper vehicle registration on Tuesday night and spotted a clear liquid that was concerning, Lopez said. A bomb squad analysis showed it had explosive contents.
Officers also found a .45 Colt handgun and narcotics. That discovery prompted the search of the man's apartment. The complex and three surrounding buildings were evacuated, and several blocks were sealed off.
Officers found explosive devices -- primarily pipe bombs and their component parts in various stages of construction -- and took them to a closed off street and disarmed them, fire Capt. Jaime Moore said.
"They've created a bunker in order to shelter any shrapnel or debris that may fly with the detonation," Moore said.
Wilson was described as a "hobbyist, lone wolf, tweaker" who was on probation for a weapons violation, said Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department's counter-terrorism and special operations bureau. A small amount of methamphetamine was also found in his apartment.
"He's not in any federal databases, not associated with any groups or gangs," Downing said. "He's just kind of a loner and it was probably more experimental."
Residents were directed to a nearby shelter during the evacuation. The bomb squad was expected to clear the area by 9 p.m. Wednesday, when residents could return to the apartment complex.
Marion Firnhaber said she'd grabbed a book and a banana early that morning and was out the door of her apartment.
"I came outside and there were so many policemen, I thought, 'Nobody's going to get away with anything,"' she said.