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Manteca cops detonate device
Soda can packed with explosives blows up Jetta
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The disintegrating four-door Jetta, debris can be seen going airborne from the powerful explosive device designed to serve only as a catalyst for yet a larger explosion. - photo by GLENN KAHL
It was a blast that could be heard some three miles away that tore apart an old Volkswagen Jetta Thursday morning proving the deadly potential of an explosive device found in a recent felony probation search in Manteca

Manteca Police detective assigned to the Central Valley Auto Theft Task Force, Steve Schluer, asked prosecuting assistant district attorney Katherine Mahood to attend the Thursday morning exhibition to better understand the gravity in finding the soda can-sized canister in the hands of a convicted felon.

The event was held in the abandoned police department’s firing range located on city property southwest of the community in a rural area just east of McKinley Avenue and about a half mile south of West Yosemite Avenue.

Mahood will prosecute the case against Scott Williams, 39, once he is arrested and charged with another auto theft incident and for being a felon in possession of explosives and a loaded shotgun.   The Manteca Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

The prosecuting attorney is attached to the county’s auto theft task force taking the officers arrests in the field into the courtroom arena for prosecution of their felony charges.  She works with the team on a continuing basis.  

Speaking in response to the staged demonstration  that was presented as being educational in nature,  the deputy district attorney said that Thursday’s car explosion “brings it home seeing it firsthand” rather than just reading about it or seeing it on TV.

“I came today to see what happens first hand when a device is detonated.  That was a car and now it is just twisted metal,” she said.  “I was startled by the power of a relatively small device the size of a Coke can.”

Mahood added that what she had seen was just a small sampling of what American troops have to deal with in Iraq and Afghanistan as they put their lives on the line.     

Seeing it flying toward you – seeing what police officers have to face was quite an experience, Mahood said.  She added that she saw the event as being very useful in that it could supplement actual testimony – seeing the power of the explosion and seeing what it could actually do.    

Manteca bomb squad officers Dan Erb and Mike Keener had organized the scene and instructed members of the media to take their positions a safe distance away as he took charge in detonating the two devices.  A smaller canister was detonated hanging from a cord to the south of the vehicle – the second under the driver’s seat of the Jetta.

Observers and media photographers and reporters took cover as the traditional verbal warning was sounded, “Fire in the hole!” followed by a countdown of “Three, two and one!” with the explosion following immediately with a deafening explosion.

A patrolman driving on Northgate Drive at Trailwood Avenue – some three miles to the northwest – reported hearing the blast at that distance.    

The triggering devices were defined as being only catalysts used primarily to ignite larger explosives, but officers felt it worthwhile to have two members of the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office witness the dual explosions and take note of the toll.  

Officer Schluer said the theft of a Chevy 4500 diesel truck that was taken from a home on Carlisle Street on Sunday, Dec. 4, led auto theft task force officers to the 2100 block of Jack Tone Road where they found the $40,000 vehicle stripped near Mormon Slough.

The vehicle, with another $40,000 in lift equipment installed, belonged to Campady Truck Lift Services, police said.  The truck had been discovered by police the following Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, officers said.

Task force officers recalled an earlier case some five years before when Scott Williams had been charged with possession of a loaded shotgun after they discovered stripped out cars, and stolen car parts at his home – a half mile south of where the stolen Manteca truck was located.

With Smith still serving out his probation and having a no bail warrant out for his arrest, officers conducted a search of his home and found another loaded 12-guage shotgun and the explosive canister charges.
The existing warrant for Smith’s arrest was related to his past conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm, police said.  

Thursday afternoon two auto theft task force officers drove by Smith’s home and found him riding a motorized dirt bike in the field near the Jack Tone Road home.  When he saw the detectives he fled through a walnut orchard, Schluer said.  The detective noted that they did not give chase because they didn’t want to tear up the orchard.  `