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'Missile' Parks on Street; the Neighbors Go Ballistic

A shell used by the Air Force spends time in Morongo Valley, prompting questions.

October 15, 2005|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Residents of a Morongo Valley neighborhood were startled Friday morning to find what appeared to be a Russian Scud missile on a truck parked on their street.

California Highway Patrol officers determined that the missile, destined for an Air Force facility in Tonopah, Nev., was an inert shell used for training -- and not a threat.

Apparently, a military truck transporting the 35-foot projectile had a flat tire near the San Bernardino County desert town, and the tow-truck driver who hauled it away decided to stop by his home near California 62 on Thursday evening before taking it to Nevada. "It looks scary," California Highway Patrol Sgt. Hans Spohr said. "But it's not."

At least one Morongo Valley resident wasn't convinced.

"No one will tell me why a nuclear bomb is parked a block and a half from my house," said Frances Douglas, who called the FBI and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department to report the missile. "This thing shouldn't be around here. It has room for bombs on it."

Another neighbor was also miffed, mostly at the truck driver. She said he appeared to be amused by the attention.

"I saw it and said, 'Oh my God, is that live?' How am I supposed to know?" Mindy Ross said.

A military spokesman said he understood why residents were concerned.

"I can certainly sympathize with someone looking out their front window and seeing this thing parked outside," said Air Force spokesman 1st Lt. Justin McVay, at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

"It has no fuel and no warhead. It is only a shell we'll use as a simulated visual threat in our training."

The military drops bombs and tests shells, rockets and missiles at the Tonopah Test Range, he said.

CHP officials said they were used to seeing military equipment transported through the area, but had seen nothing like this.

"What happens a lot is the military guys break down with a flat tire or engine problems, but they're usually carrying tanks or heavy equipment across the desert," Spohr said. "This is the first time I've seen a rocket like this one."

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