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Boston bombing suspect bought reloadable mortar-shell fireworks

April 23, 2013|By Seema Mehta
  • Cleaning material covers the area where a bomb exploded on the sidewalk of Boylston Street in Boston.
Cleaning material covers the area where a bomb exploded on the sidewalk… (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

One of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers purchased two large reloadable mortar kits from a fireworks store in New Hampshire, an executive with the pyrotechnics company said Tuesday.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev paid $199 cash for two “lock and load” kits, each of which contained four tubes and 24 shells, said William Weimer, vice president of Phantom Fireworks. Such kits cannot be legally sold in some states, including Massachusetts and California.

The kits are typically used for amateur fireworks displays. Users load one shell at a time into a launch tube, and when it is shot in the air, the shell bursts, creating a colorful and noisy light display, Weimer said.

FULL COVERAGE: Boston Marathon attack

Each shell is loaded with two forms of powder, he said: a black powder, which is the explosive ingredient that causes the shell to burst, and effect powder, which creates the colors and noise.

“The only thing that he could have done is he could have ripped all the shells apart and attempted to harvest the powder,” he said.

Tsarnaev could have collected 1.5 pounds of powder at most, a tiny fraction of the amount he could have legally purchased elsewhere, Weimer said.

“There’s much more lethal stuff available in gun stores and hobby stores and hardware stores,” he said.

The company discovered the purchase Thursday, when authorities publicized Tsarnaev's name three days after the bombing that killed three and injured more than 260.

The company ran the name through its database and discovered that Tsarnaev purchased the kits Feb. 6 at its Seabrook, N.H., store, which is about an hour north of Boston, Weimer said. The company alerted the FBI, which has since visited the store’s showroom and met with company officials.

Weimer said he suspects that the “large pyrotechnic” authorities discovered in the dorm room of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Tamerlan's younger brother, is one of the kits.

“My assumption is he experimented with them and probably quickly came to the conclusion it wasn’t going to do him much good,” Weimer said.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was pronounced dead at a Boston hospital Friday morning after a shootout with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnev, who was captured Friday after a manhunt, remains hospitalized and has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction in the marathon bombings. The 19-year-old could face the death penalty if convicted in federal court.

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter:@LATSeema

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