Authorities are investigating "acid bombs" — small explosives made from a mixture of household chemicals — left on the lawn of an African American woman's home in Rossmoor, Orange County sheriff's officials said.
A woman called law enforcement shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday to report that she had found several plastic bottles containing a blue liquid near the driveway of her home in the 3000 block of Mainway Drive.
As she was on the phone with the authorities, one of the bottles exploded with a sound that resembled a gunshot, said Investigator Kent McBride of the Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb squad.
When authorities arrived, the other containers on the driveway and lawn, as well as one lodged in a tree in a park across the street, had not gone off, McBride said. The bomb squad cordoned off the area and disabled the explosives.
Acid bombs, he said, are potentially devastating, capable of ripping apart the hand of someone holding it, and the noise can rupture eardrums.
McBride said no one was injured Sunday and there were no suspects.
KTLA-TV Channel 5 reported that the woman who lives in the home, an African American whom authorities did not identify, said in an off-camera interview that she feared her family was targeted and that the attack was racially motivated.
McBride, however, said that at this point in the investigation there was "no evidence it was a hate crime," with no graffiti or "obvious intent to damage property or to terrify." But that could change pending further investigation, he said.
Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, said Tuesday the commission was reviewing the incident. "We're looking into it now … as a possible hate crime," he said.
The commission — which has published a regular report on hate crime in the county since 1991 — said African Americans have been the most targeted victims of hate crimes, despite making up only a small portion of the population. Even as Orange County becomes increasingly diverse, African Americans make up just 2% of its population.
The commission said its most recently published report, covering 2011, showed an uptick in crimes against African Americans.
One recently publicized case was that of a Yorba Linda family who fled their home in October after enduring years of taunts, slurs and vandalism. Vandals smashed their windows and slashed the tires of their cars, and the family — which included an Inglewood police officer and L.A. County sheriff's deputy — said the final straw was when someone fired acid pellets into their garage. They'd been in the neighborhood for two years.
The incident has prompted a series of forums on issues affecting the African American community in Orange County. The "Listening Sessions" are being organized by the human relations commission, with local activist organizations and churches. The first is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. at Christ Our Redeemer Church in Irvine.