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Bomb Built by Boy, 10, Forces Evacuation of Lancaster School

December 08, 1990|JOHN RIVERA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 800 children were evacuated from a Lancaster elementary school Friday after discovery of a potentially lethal time bomb, made by a 10-year-old boy who said he learned how from a TV secret agent show, sheriff's deputies said.

The boy was unable, however, to determine when the bomb was timed to explode, which turned out to be shortly after it was confiscated by authorities, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies said. It was blown up on the school playground with only six minutes to spare.

A boy wearing a Bart Simpson T-shirt was taken into custody after admitting he had built the bomb. He said he used information from an episode of the "MacGyver" TV show. The show's producer said there was no such episode.

The school was evacuated after the bomb was found by third-graders in a trash can in the boys' restroom of the Del Sur Elementary School shortly after 10 a.m., school officials said.

The bomb, fashioned from model rocket engines with a digital alarm clock as a timer, "was a relatively simple device, but it was effective," Sheriff's Sgt. Bob Denham said. "It had enough force that it could have either seriously injured or killed somebody."

The boy had wired the rockets to the clock, but did not know what time the alarm was set for, Denham said. "He knew how to make it, but he didn't know how to operate it," he said.

Sheriff's Department explosive experts placed it in a bomb box and detonated it on the school's playground at 11:05 a.m., six minutes before it would have gone off, said the deputy who detonated the bomb.

After the evacuation, the boy approached a teacher and said he made the bomb, patterning it on one he saw made on the "MacGyver" show, which features a secret agent hero who improvises devices from everyday objects.

"We've never built a bomb that has been instructional," Steve Downing, executive producer of "MacGyver," said. The show has never shown a bomb made from model rocket engines or employing a digital watch, he said.

He said he receives several reports each year from areas where the show is blamed for some act committed by a young person. "When the authorities ask them why they were doing this dumb thing, 'MacGyver' seems to be the ready excuse," he said.

The boy was released to the custody of his parents but will face juvenile court proceedings, deputies said.

Allan Sacks, assistant superintendent of the Westside Union School District, said the boy "will be brought up by the board for a possible expulsion."

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