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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Security Chief to Plead Guilty in Explosives Case

May 05, 1999

DOWNTOWN — The chief of Los Angeles County's security force said Tuesday that he will plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor for improperly storing explosive devices in an Agoura Hills storage locker.

Bayan Lewis, who also is a former interim chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge would not preclude him from continuing as chief of the county's Office of Public Safety, but he said that he told his superiors he would be willing to resign if necessary.

"I feel bad," Lewis said in an interview. "It's the appearance that I've done something horrible." Lewis, 57, said he signed a plea agreement last week with federal prosecutors who will recommend that he be sentenced to probation, pending the approval of a judge. Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael Terrell, the prosecutor on the case, declined to comment.

Lewis said the devices in question are grenade simulators, practice grenades and smoke grenades left over from his days in the National Guard. He said he used the devices during training sessions in the 1970s and '80s and had forgotten that some were still kept in his storage locker. Only the grenade simulators, which he compared to M-80 explosives, are capable of serious injury, Lewis said.

Although against military policy, Lewis said, it was common for reserve officers to carry unused explosive devices off base in the trunks of their cars and bring them back when they returned for training. But according to federal law, such devices must be stored in an ammunition bunker, he said.

Lewis' boss, Michael J. Henry, said: "This is not a major issue. It's almost like a traffic ticket. And I'm not trying to say a traffic ticket can't be serious. But it doesn't mean the end of your career."

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