"The Molotov cocktail, also known as the petrol
bomb, gasoline bomb, or Molotov bomb, is a
generic name used for a variety of improvised
incendiary weapons. Simple to make, they are
frequently used by rioters.  The bombs were
derisively named after Soviet Union Foreign
Minister Vyacheslav Molotov by the Finns during
the Winter War."
Times Square Bomb
Was It A Dirty Bomb?
Have you ever stopped to think how difficult it is for
terrorists to make real, and more importantly
lasting, impacts on the United States?  Here in
Baltimore over the 2010 Memorial Day weekend,
twelve people were shot in eleven separate
incidents; eight fatally.  While that’s a bad weekend
even for Baltimore, it’s not unusual.

It’s pretty amazing how much tolerance people can
develop for violence.  But…keep in mind that there
are two types of tolerance.  If you’re a person who
lives or works almost continuously in an
environment where violence is common,
you’ll develop personal strategies and tactics to
avoid becoming a victim.  This type of tolerance is
born out of a simple realization of reality and your
inability to change that reality.  The second type of
tolerance is easy to develop if you’re a person
whose only contact with violence comes in the form
of network or cable television reports of violence
and the injuries and deaths associated with the
violence.  You can shake your head and comment
on how terrible it is and then go back to your day
to day activities.  As problematic as violence is in
the United States, most Americans fall into the
second type of tolerance paradigm.

Herein lay the problem for all the Osama bin Laden
disciples or any other pathological killers intent on
effecting their warped concepts of change through
acts of terror.  The terrorist attacks on 9/11
certainly got everyone’s attention… at least for a
while.  But, people are people, and Americans are
no different from any other people when it comes to
short spans of attention.  As bad as 9/11 was,
most Americans will never be able to fully
conceptualize that event except for those who
actually were there to experience and survive the

Then comes May 1, 2010 when a Nissan Pathfinder
is parked in New York City’s Times Square
containing fireworks; propane; gasoline; fertilizer
and some other items:

One CBS News story described the cost of the
items found in the Nissan:

“The M88 fireworks were purchased for $95 in
Pennsylvania. A gun safe similar to the one found in
the Nissan can be purchased for about $290.00.

Then we estimated the cost of the other bomb
components: eight bags of fertilizer $160.00, 3
Propane Gas Canisters, $149.00, two alarm clocks,
$15.00, two five-gallon gas canisters, $26.00, and
gasoline for the canisters, $34.00.

Grand Total - about $2,100.00”

When I heard the news reports describing the
bomb which failed to detonate, my interest was
immediately drawn to what was generally described
as a 70 pound gun safe.  Evidently, CBS found the
same type of gun safe – more accurately a gun fire
safe – as I found on the Internet at 69 pounds and
retailing for $289.00.  News reports would
subsequently reveal, according to government
sources, that the gun safe contained fertilizer.  Here’
s the interesting thing about the gun fire safe that I
found… the interior dimensions of the safe – 7.09”H
x 11.81”W x 8.86”D – is not a lot of room.  Even if
you believe New York Mayor Bloomberg’s
description of the bomb as “amateurish,” it strains
logic to believe that the safe contained fertilizer.  
What I found “amateurish” was the media’s lack of
curiosity for an item which seemed so out of place
in the construction of a car bomb… or was it out of

Remember, 9/11 placed the bar really high for
terrorists.  New York City remains a prime target for
terrorists.  If terrorists can make successful strikes
against New York, they can exhibit their ability to
strike anywhere.  While the detonation of a car
bomb in New York City’s Time Square resulting in
any significant loss of life would be viewed as a
success by terrorists, it would still fall far short of a
9/11; unless, something contained in that car bomb
could leave behind a long lasting negative effect on
lives and the city’s economy.

Every item described was, in and of itself, an item
which was designed for anything other than a
bomb.  News reporters and pundits talked about
the common nature of the bomb components, but
little time was devoted to that out of place “gun
safe.”  Where was the discussion of the possibility
of the gun safe containing radiological, chemical, or
biological material?  If indeed the safe contained
material to facilitate a “dirty bomb,” my money
would be on chemical or biological.  That gun fire
safe could protect the material from being
destroyed by the initial fire ball created by the
propane and gasoline.

Okay, my speculation that the Times Square bomb
could have been a dirty bomb is just that… pure
speculation.  After all, the only information
forthcoming is from government sources filtered
through the media; neither of which can be viewed
as possessing a high level of credibility.

The truth of the matter is this.  Anytime you, as a
police officer, encounter a crime scene, the
information coming out of that scene will depend
upon the amount of interest from other police
officers, investigators, politicians and media.  Let’s
say you respond to a location in a seedy part of
town to investigate a possible overdose.  You find a
body, and you observe evidence – suspected
controlled dangerous substance(s); paraphernalia,
etc. – to indicate that the person may have died
from an overdose.  The victim appears to be a
regular drug user evidenced by the track marks on
his arms.  The victim also sadly appears to be of no
obvious importance in the societal scheme of
things. You go about following procedures and
documenting your actions and collection of
evidence.  The body goes to the medical examiner
who will eventually confirm the cause of death from
the results of the autopsy, and the information
provided from your investigation.

Now, let’s change this drug overdose scenario just
a bit.  The possible overdose you’re investigating is
now located in the room of a downtown four star
hotel.  The victim is a person of national celebrity.  
Aside from the location and the victim’s social
status, this scenario is exactly the same as the
first.  While the first scenario didn’t even draw the
interest of another police officer, the second one is
going to draw plenty of attention from all quarters.  
Unless the investigation is snatched away from you,
you’re going to go about things exactly as you did
in the first scenario.  However, when you begin
hearing media reports regarding the incident, you
may not recognize much of what you hear.

The scenarios I just described have one very
important thing in common with the attempt to
bomb Times Square; that one important thing is…
how important an event is perceived to be.  If the
media were really interested in the first scenario,
they might be allowed to get information directly
from you.  Even if there’d be a filter in the form of a
public information officer, that would still be only
one layer of bureaucracy, and while they’d still
probably get something wrong, most of the
information would be disseminated and reported
accurately.  The second scenario would be a whole
different story.  You can only imagine how many
layers of bureaucracy would be involved, and how
many sources of information would be developed
among people who may, or may not, have any
accurate information to share.

There’s no question that the Times Square bomb
was one very important event, and that gun safe –
if indeed it was a gun safe – will always be a source
of curiosity for me.  However, I’m just glad that the
bomb failed, and I’ll just have to live with my
curiosity.  If the alleged bomber, Faisal Shahzad,
was not, in fact, the bumbling fool the government
would like us to believe, and he succeeded in
constructing a dirty bomb, the fact that the
information would not be shared with the public is
not a bad thing.
While the Molotov cocktail is not a sophisticated
bomb, it can be highly destructive and deadly.  The
destructive potential of a Molotov can be enhanced
by any individual who does just a small amount of
research, and it has long been the bomb of choice
for street level thugs.  Fortunately, some thugs are
morons as well.  I once responded for a bombing
where the suspect threw a Molotov through the
front window of a residence.  No explosion ensued,
because the suspect constructed the Molotov using
a plastic bottle.  In another incident, the suspect(s)
used a soft drink can.  While the ignorance of a
criminal is a good thing, you cannot count on a
criminal's poor bomb making skills.

Bombs are simply insidiously deadly and destructive
devices used by terrorists and other criminals to kill
and maim.  Your best defense against bombs and
bombers will always be your vigilance and
developing your sense of never taking anything for
Bombs and
Bomb Threats
"A lot of new police officers are surprised by
their lack of authority when it comes to most
bomb threat incidents." ~ Barry M. Baker
American police officers have been pretty lucky in
respect to bombs and bombers in comparison to a
country like Israel where every generation of its
citizens and police officers have dealt with bombings
on massive levels since the country's inception.  
Sure, America has had, and continues to have, its
own home grown terrorists with the bombers
among them, but Americans don't board a bus
everyday and scan the passengers, profile if you
will, for bomb carrying terrorists.

During the many years I spent on the street, I
never encountered a bomb more sophisticated than
a Molotov cocktail, but I sure handled a lot of bomb
threats.  When you begin your police career, you
can be certain that you'll eventually be assigned to
handle a bomb threat incident.  You may also be
surprised how simple your responsibilities will be.  
Aside from making proper notifications within your
chain of command, your biggest responsibility may
be establishing a perimeter a safe distance away
from the alleged location of a bomb.  Or... you
might respond to a public school for a bomb threat,
and the Principal informs you that no evacuation will
be conducted.

A lot of new police officers are surprised by their
lack of authority when it comes to most bomb
threat incidents.  Obviously, as a police officer, you
have a great deal of authority in any situation where
you have probable cause to act.  In most bomb
threat incidents, however, the initial information will
be vague and usually delivered by telephone.  Let's
look at the public school incident where the principal
tells you he'll have a cursory search conducted, but
he won't evacuate the school.  It turns out that this
is the third threat received over a period of two
weeks, and the Principal has determined that the
motive of the caller is to simply disrupt classes.  
Since there is no exigent circumstance existing for
you to overrule the Principal, you wait for the
results of the search.
During the search, one of the teachers finds a
package beneath her desk.  The package is the
shape and size of a shoe box wrapped in brown
paper with no markings.  Here's where you exercise
your authority.  You now have a suspicious package
along with the threat.  You ensure that nobody
touches the package, and you order an immediate
evacuation of the school.  Once you've cleared the
school, the package is now the responsibility of
those trained in bomb disposal.

In this scenario, the package turns out to be a
hoax.  The package, which is a shoe box, contains a
brick with a note attached saying, "BOOM."  While
there was never any danger to anyone, you acted
properly, and you now have some physical evidence
to aid in the investigation of the threats.  Or... the
package was inadvertently left beneath the desk the
day before by a substitute teacher.  The teacher
had wrapped the package for mailing, but she'd not
yet affixed a mailing label.  In any case, during your
investigation, the package was suspicious dictating
the actions you took.  Or – the third possibility –
the package contained a real bomb.     

You may be surprised to learn that, in locations
which are not under your direct responsibility,  you
will not be able to force searches or evacuations
based on mere threats.  Let's say you receive a
bomb threat call for a "car bomb."  The caller gives
the location and a complete description of the car,
and you find the car parked on a residential street.  
You immediately arrange for roadblocks to prevent
any vehicular or pedestrian traffic from entering the
area.  Officers are knocking on doors directing
residents to evacuate the area.  You knock on the
door of the residence directly in front of the parked
car.  A woman answers the door, and she listens to
you briefly, before she tells you to take a hike and
slams the door in your face.  Okay, I made her
reaction a little extreme to make this point; she
doesn't have to evacuate her home if she doesn't
want to leave.  You can't always make a person act
in his or her best interest; unless, that person is in
your custody.  Let's say this woman is sitting in her
parked car on the street a short distance from the
alleged "car bomb."  This time you order the woman
to evacuate the area by either walking or driving
beyond the nearest roadblock.  If she refuses this
time, she's subject to arrest for failing to obey your
lawful order.  What's the difference?  While you
couldn't order her out of her home, you can
certainly order her movement on the street under
the prevailing circumstance.

You often see the problems with evacuations
associated with natural disasters like hurricanes and
wild fires.  A mayor or governor will issue a
"mandatory evacuation" order which is not really
mandatory; it's simply a really strong appeal to
people to evacuate.  However, once the people are
away from their homes or businesses, police will
have total control over when and how those people
may return.

If you're lucky, you'll never encounter a
sophisticated bomb during your career.  However,
if  you're on the street for any length of time, you'll
likely have some experience with the Molotov

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