Jan. 11, 2006 — A half-dozen bombs exploded on the south shore of St. Croix Wednesday afternoon. No one was hurt, but the 30 officers studying bombs in a weeklong training program learned a lot.
James McCall, deputy police commissioner, is an agent with the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on loan to the V.I. Police Department. He came to the department two years ago.
He said one of his immediate charges was to get a bomb squad up and running. The Virgin Islands was certified to have its own bomb squad six months ago and has been receiving funds and equipment since. The Police Department has had a bomb disposal truck for more than a year. Just a couple weeks ago it received what is called a total containment vessel in which bombs could be exploded safely. It has also received protective suits for bomb squad members and a robot.
One of the demonstration explosions was in the containment device. It sounded like a giant steam kettle letting off steam.
Other explosions, which were generally fueled by explosives equal to a stick of dynamite, were louder. Instructor Phil Kersey told the students, "The most important thing you should learn here is that if someone is approaching you with 10 sticks of dynamite, take them very seriously."
Different sorts of bombs were set off for different purposes. One device was set up in a manner that would be used to blow a hole through a re-enforced door. It did blow a nice round hole in the target.
Another explosive was set in a couple of tires. When it went off, one tire was thrown hundreds of feet into the air.
One explosion misfired and only half of the explosive material exploded. Instructor Bill Hamilton said he was very glad that happened because he was then able to explain to the students the reason it happened.
The instructors said that although information on bomb building is now readily available through Internet sources, there is no noticeable trend that criminals are using more bombs.
However, the instructors said criminals now purchase their bomb materials legally. In the radical movements of the '60s and '70s, most of the explosive devices used by the radicals were stolen.
McCall said that the formation of the bomb squad was necessary. "We had to do it. It is in the best interests of everyone on the Virgin Islands."
He added that the Virgin Islands could no longer count on help from Puerto Rico for bomb disposal problems. He said, "We now have to count on Miami, and they are very busy."
He said that this training program was just the start. According to McCall, there will be more experts coming to the Virgin Islands to conduct classes, and V.I. officers will also be going off-island for training.
The training program started Monday with a classroom introduction to explosives. On Tuesday officers learned about components that go into bombs and how to identify them after the bombs have exploded. (See V.I. Officers Get Hands-On Bomb Training.)
After the students left the demonstration site Wednesday, instructors planned to blow up two vehicles. The students were to return Thursday morning to investigate, collect evidence and arrive at conclusions based on what they had learned this week.
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