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O.C. boy, 12, held after bomb material is found

Police say the student brought the items to his Newport Beach school.

December 12, 2007|Nardine Saad and David Haldane | Times Staff Writers

Authorities on Tuesday arrested a 12-year-old boy who they said brought bomb-making materials to his Newport Beach school, stowing some of the items in his locker.

Students at Horace Ensign Intermediate School were evacuated to an athletic field as a bomb squad swept the campus and anxious parents gathered outside the school.

"He had the equipment to manufacture a type of acid bomb that was not put together but could obviously cause serious injury," said Evan Sailor, a spokesman for the Newport Beach Police Department.

The boy, who was not identified, was taken to O.C. Juvenile Hall while authorities investigated the incident. Police said there was no immediate explanation why the components were brought onto campus.

The incident began early Tuesday when a student notified campus security about what he thought were drugs in the boy's possession, according to police. Called to the campus in the 2000 block of Cliff Drive at 11:30 a.m., Newport Beach police and fire officials said they searched the boy's locker, discovered the materials and immediately locked down the school, evacuating about 1,100 students.

Authorities would not describe the materials in detail, except to say that they were for a device made by filling a plastic bottle with an acid and a base to create the type of chemical reaction caused by mixing vinegar and baking soda.

The resulting explosion, experts say, would spray the chemicals, typically causing burns and irritation to the eyes, skin and respiratory system of anyone nearby.

The 12-year-old boy, who was in school at the time, was taken into custody and booked on suspicion of felony possession of an explosive device.

Students were allowed to return to their classrooms about 2 1/2 hours after the bomb squad removed the materials from campus.

Laura Boss, a spokeswoman for the Newport Mesa Unified School District, said that although the boy's motives were unknown, the campus was safe.

"Our students are as safe as they possibly can be," she said. "I don't know that we can protect them from something like this, but our response was appropriate."

Parent Kerri Hirschof said she was notified of the incident in a text message from her eighth-grade son.

"I came over immediately, but they wouldn't release him," she said. "I'm glad everyone's OK, but I was a little nervous, especially with everything that's going on in the world today."

The bomb scare occurred just days after 14 people died in shootings at an Omaha mall and two church facilities in Colorado.

And as authorities searched the Newport Beach campus for explosives, police elsewhere reported that six people were wounded by gunfire at a school bus stop in Las Vegas, and a Roman Catholic school in Montclair had been locked down after a suspicious package was found.

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nardine.saad@latimes.com

david.haldane@latimes.com

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