TPD Bomb Squad: Homemade pipe bombs are dangerous hobby and illegal

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Updated: 12/06/2012 9:51 am Published: 12/05/2012 10:40 pm

Families in the area of Mounds knew their neighbor was up to something and now they know the scary truth.

Federal agents said they uncovered materials on how to make bombs and Molotov cocktails at the home of Kent Bartell, 46, in Mounds.

"Black powder, deconstructive fireworks, end caps for pipe bombs," said Creek County Sheriff Detective Chrissie Underwood.

Investigators with the Creek County Sheriff’s Office arrested Bartell on Tuesday where he practices alternative medicine at his New Hope Health Clinic in Jenks.

FOX23 News was the only television station there as agents searched the property on Tuesday.

A probable cause affidavit stated the investigation started on November 30th, after rumblings that a student brought a pipe bomb to Jenks High School.

After school administrators interviewed the student they contacted the Tulsa Police Bomb Squad.

Authorities said a bomb sniffing dog got a hit on his locker indicating there were explosives.

"In his mind he probably thought it was no big deal, he took it on the bus, he put it in his locker," said Underwood.

They didn't find the bomb, but investigators said the student admitted he brought it to show his friends. It was a pipe bomb that had failed months prior and he said his dad helped him make it.

"Anybody who thinks it's okay for a child to take an undetonated pipe bomb to school that's a disturbing image for me,” said Bartell’s neighbor, Joe Carner.

Investigators found pictures on the student’s cell phone that had bomb making materials, packing slips from Hong Kong and videos with this father.

"Encouraged him and videotaped him blowing stuff up on the property. There was lumber, burying it in the ground and seeing what the explosion would do,” said Underwood.

For the past couple of months neighbors felt their house shake.

"I was sitting in there watching TV and I heard a loud explosion," said Bartell’s neighbor, Billy Palmore.

The neighbor couldn’t figure it out until these federal and local agents and Tulsa Police Bomb Squad officers were at Bartell’s home.

"Divots in the ground that were indicative of a blast site," TPD Bomb Squad Sgt. Jacob Thompson.

They cleared the scene before investigators searched the property. There was not an active bomb on site but materials that could explode.

Investigators claim Bartell learned how to make the explosives from the Internet.

He would deconstruct fireworks, used household items such as bleach and black powder and fertilizer and set them off on their Mounds property.

Inside the barn agents said they found a mixture of gasoline and Styrofoam, a mixture bomb squad experts said is the same effect as "Napalm", a fiery substance used in Vietnam that sticks to surfaces.

"Think of the explosion that could have happened," said Underwood.

As they searched Bartell’s property they found blast craters near a pond, pieces of wood that had been blown apart and a shattered bowling ball.

"He's not trained. It's a little bit disturbing to know that if something would have happened we are close enough that it could affect us or our grandchildren," said Carner.

Tuesday night, FOX23 News spoke to Carner who was already concerned. Twenty-four hours later Carner is unnerved after investigators found his neighbor bought bomb making materials at local hardware stores. Bartell’s son told investigators he and his dad used the Internet to learn how to make pipe bombs.

Sergeant Thompson said not only is it illegal if not licensed, but it’s dangerous to use the Internet to make explosives.

"These are citizens that are self proclaimed experts. They often leave out steps and those steps are the safety measures,” said Thompson.

It’s unclear Bartell’s intent to make the pipe bombs.

"If you take gun powder, black powder, propellant or explosives and put it inside a container with a fuse we are going to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” said Thompson. “It’s not a safe hobby and it’s not a legal one either.”

Sergeant Thompson said in the last 18 months they’ve investigated a handful of people who are suspected of making their own fireworks or explosives. It’s only legal if you have a permit and there are strict federal regulations.

Bartell is being held on $500,000 bond. He faces child endangerment and making explosives.

Both are felony charges. Under the Oklahoma law, if convicted of illegally making explosives it carries a three to ten year prison sentence.

The Creek County District Attorney said he’s been in contact with Bartell’s attorney. He has not received the paperwork but said Bartell is expected to be arraigned next week.

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