LASD deputies received a call on Thursday, September 28 from concerned residents reporting a suspicious vehicle parked in front of a Lawndale home. When deputies arrived, they located the suspicious vehicle and questioned its two occupants. Upon conducting a search of the vehicle, deputies discovered a handgun and detained the male suspect while a female was later released. A further investigation of the home ensued, during which deputies came across nearly 30 pieces of military-grade ordnance.
According to authorities, the ordnance included grenades, ammunition, and a variety of shells of various sizes that appeared to date back to WWII. The home where the devices were discovered had been owned by a WWII veteran who passed away a few months prior to the incident. After the veteran’s death, the house remained empty until it was overtaken by transients.
Upon discovering the cache of weaponry, residents of the surrounding homes were evacuated for about 14 hours while members of the bomb squad analyzed the items. Most of the grenades and explosive devices were deemed to be inert, though some of the ammunition found on-site caused concern among investigators. Authorities are still looking into the cache of grenades, mortar rounds, artillery shells and ammunition to find out where it came from, how long it had been there, and to whom it belonged.
If the items are traced back to the previous owner of the house, it wouldn’t be the first time someone had such items in their possession. Under California Penal Code 18710 PC, it’s illegal to possess a “destructive device,” including grenades, bombs, explosive missiles, certain rockets and rocket-propelled projectiles or projectiles containing any kind of explosive or incendiary material. Under this definition, it isn’t required that the explosive device be a military-grade bomb or projectile; homemade items like Molotov cocktails count as explosive devices. For someone to be charged with violating 18710 PC, they must simply possess the destructive device — it isn’t necessary that the individual planned to explode it or use it in any way.
18710 PC is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal history. Potential misdemeanor penalties include up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
For felonies, the potential penalties are enhanced and include 16 months to three years in California state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The felony penalty is enhanced to include 2-6 years in California state prison if the defendant is found to have possessed the explosive device near a public street or highway, private residence, public building (such as a theater, school, church or college), near any vessel for hire that carries passengers (trains, planes, cable cars, etc.) and in or near any public place that is ordinarily passed by human beings.