By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
First the disclaimer.
I never worked the Bomb Squad, I never wanted to work the Bomb Squad; their black jump suits added ten pounds to my toned body. I didn’t like responding to any of the bomb calls.
There are two kinds of bomb calls. “Bomb threats,” usually a phone call or letter. Now days, there might be emails or texts. The other is a suspicious package. Suspicious package can be anything from a brief case to a back pack both can get you hurt if the call is good. I used to think about my wife worrying about me every time I left for a normal day’s work—whatever normal is! In the Bomb Squad, you get a call out in the middle of the night and your spouse knows you’re driving to danger. You can tell your spouse not to worry. “I’ll be careful,” but that only reassures them for a few minutes. I’ll bet after you leave they look for an all-night news station on TV. They know you might never come home again.
My first personal experience with explosives was with fire crackers that I smuggled across the border from Mexico. Oh come, on I was only twelve! I once lit a fire cracker in a model airplane that I built. Did I mention that I had put some gasoline in the plane? I light the fuse and after the explosion, I spent the next ten minutes putting out the small brush fires it started. “Stupid is as Stupid Does.”
I think that Bomb Squad officers are smart and professional and more than qualified to handle any suspicious package as most bombs were called, but every once in a while something goes very wrong. No “take overs” with bombs!
I remember a few early suspicious package calls both at the old Hollywood Police station. The first was where some good intended citizen placed a package at the back door to the station. The bomb squad blew it up with a water cannon. It was a chocolate Easter Bunny. The second was placed in front of the station and when blown up 500 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle were scattered across Wilcox Avenue. Both of those might have been a test to see how we’d react.
My first real recollection of a true bomb was August 1975. That was the night that the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) placed a bomb under a police car at the IHOP. I was eating six blocks away and thought it could have just as easily been under my police car. The bomb squad later placed that same pipe bomb under a car and set it off. It would have killed both officers and a lot of IHOP customers. For the next thirty years, I bent down and looked under my police car to see if there was a bomb.
That’s tough on the knees especially when you get in your 50’s.
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