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December 2, 2011

Baltimore County man pleads guilty to hoarding explosives

Baltimore County police investigating a man who shot a child in the leg with a pellet gun in February got a surprise when they searched his apartment in Owings Mills -- a pile of guns, ammunition, bombs, fuses and metal pipes.

In addition to bomb making materials, police said they found books with titles such as "The Anarchist Cookbook," "Blaster's Handbook," "The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives," "Improvised Radio Detonation Techniques," "The Do-It-Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook," "Home-Built Claymore Mines," and "Ragnar's Homemade Detonators -- How to Make 'Em, How to Salvage 'Em, How to Detonate 'Em."

Timothy Ray Berry, 28, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Thursday to possession of firearms and explosives and faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 1. Here's what police said they found in his apartment:

The BB gun used in the assault, a loaded 9mm handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun, 3 boxes of ammunition, handcuffs, brass knuckles, other BB guns and airsoft pistols and a stun gun.  Police also observed "several improvised explosive devices, including: C-4 explosive material; and a clear plastic container with gray powder and a M-800 pyrotechnic device inside, secured with a white lid with a burnt hole in the center."

Authorities searched the apartment a second time and said they found "items commonly used in the production of illegal improvised explosives, including, among other things: containers of potassium nitrate and potassium chlorate, smokeless shotgun powder, model rocket igniters and motors, pool chemicals, various fuse materials, PVC and metal pipe of varying lengths and pipe fittings."

Police also said they found "numerous books related to firearm and the manufacture of illegal improvised explosives. Berry had underlined and starred book titles including, “Clear Your Record & Own a Gun,” and “How to Lose Your X-Wife Forever.”  Berry’s computer was also seized and a subsequent forensic analysis revealed that less than a month before, Berry had searched online for how to make homemade C-4, and how to fabricate tags for Maryland license plates."

The Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement that on March 1, "following Berry’s arrest and detention on state charges related to child abuse, reckless endangerment, and gun possession, and with knowledge of the imminent federal investigation, Berry called another individual from jail and instructed that person to “burn” the “other books” and to get rid of “anything that looks like it could be suspect...”

Posted by Peter Hermann at 7:22 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County, Courts and the justice system


Was it old Sarge?

A disturbing amount of what is reported here seems to be nothing more than "thought crime." The books whose titles are cited are reprints of DoD manuals, freely and legally available from numerous sources.

Three boxes of ammunition is insignificant, considering there were firearms in two different calibers. And in general, the quantity of ammunition found in a police search might mean nothing more than that the person whose house was searched found a good price on a quantity package.

The "items commonly used" to make improvised explosives may be a criminal matter, but the books by themselves are certainly not.

Sorry, books aren't illegal. (unless they are child porn... or something.) Owning guns, ammunition, containers of potassium nitrate and potassium chlorate, smokeless shotgun powder, model rocket igniters and motors, pool chemicals, various fuse materials, PVC, metal pipe of varying lengths and pipe fittings, brass knuckles, other BB guns, airsoft pistols, and a stun gun is also not illegal. I can probably walk into any reasonably stocked kitchen and make something not legal. Searching for sensitive terms, also not illegal. Unless the guns are of an illegal type for Maryland, the only crime so far might be improper storage of explosives or ignitable material, having a M-800 pyrotechnic device, shooting that kid with a pellet gun, and maybe at best trying to make C-4... which is questionable if its actually C-4.

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.

Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.

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