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Was That a Bomb?!?

Photo1 daf22Photo2 6f0e6By Randall C. Resch

Have you ever responded to a tow or transport a vehicle that might include a bomb-type device? What's your company's operational procedure for doing so?

The following incident comes from my "What Were They Thinking?" archives:

A disgruntled vehicle owner in California was angry at officers from the San Francisco Police Department of Parking and Traffic. The news reported that the owner was upset because his vehicle was being towed for multiple unpaid parking tickets.

As the pickup truck was being towed, the 36-year-old owner argued with the police and became aggressive and violent. At some point, the man alleged there were explosives in the back of the pickup. He was arrested for assault and terroristic threats on top of having his truck impounded.

The news article said the tower diverted to a nearby parking lot. Ultimately, the bomb squad from the San Francisco Police Department responded and determined that packages inside the truck's interior were not any kind of explosives.

Well, I don't know about you, but that's a police tow request that I would have refused and for obvious reasons.

Check Your Eyes

Years ago, I'd finished loading an impounded car for the San Diego Police Department and was making my way back to the freeway.

Keep in mind, I spent 12 years as an SDPD police officer with SWAT training in a career that ended after an on-duty motorcycle crash. While driving through a large residential area full of apartments and condos, my cop vision spotted an unoccupied parked car with what I thought was a pipe bomb wired to the vehicle's door. Clearly visible in the window's opening was an 8" piece of metal pipe and loose wires, all hanging from the sunroof by automotive clamps.

Was I seeing things? Was it a bomb?

I called one of my SWAT buddies and explained my location and what I saw. I requested a supervisor meet me as I waited a safe distance away.

The SWAT supervisor arrived and I pointed out the device. I'm not sure if he had any explosives training, but he simply pooh-poohed the idea that anyone would leave an explosive device in a vehicle in broad daylight and in the middle of a residential area.

He walked up to the car to have a look, paused for a second, then reached into the open window frame and tugged the wires. I held my breath and closed my eyes, anticipating him being blown to smithereens.

For understandable reasons, the vehicle was impounded. Its owner showed up to explain to the police that the pipe, wires and hose clamps were holding the vehicle's door closed.

If you see anything that looks like a pipe bomb or improvised explosive device in a vehicle, stay hands off and call 911 immediately. If a tow is required, perhaps to load a vehicle and drive it to a wide-open parking lot, maybe you can get one of the officers to drive the tow truck for you.

Me? There's only so far I'll go to avoid being blown up. Yeah ... I'm kind of funny that way.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame, and, a recipient of the 2017 Dave Jones Leadership Award.
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