Chemical reaction explosive 'pranks' a concern

Investigators seek information in 3 incidents since November

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Investigators in St. Johns County are seeking information to lead them to those involved in several separate incidents of chemical reaction devices, or soda bottle explosions, in the World Golf Village area within the last six months.

Detectives said they began investigating the first incident in November when a device containing mixed household chemicals was placed in a Dumpster in the parking lot of McDonald's in the 100 block of Tuscan Way and detonated as the victim was driving past.

There were no reported injuries to the victim, but her vehicle was damaged. Deputies said the incident was classified and investigated as criminal mischief at the time.

The most recent events occurred Sunday afternoon in the King and the Bear subdivision.

The first incident was reported in the 5200 block of Comfort Court between 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. The device was placed in the victim's mailbox, where it detonated and caused damage.

The second incident was discovered by a deputy, who was patrolling the area of the 2600 block of Oak Grove Avenue between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The deputy located the chemical reaction device, which was building pressure in the front of the victim's home.

Deputies notified the residents, who were unaware of what was occurring in their front yard.

Detectives said they're considering these incidents as "experimental pranks," because there seems to be no intent to harm people. However, law enforcement officers caution that the crude devices can cause personal injury to those who may come in close contact with them.

"Detectives believe at this point it's juveniles playing pranks," said Sgt. Catherine Payne, of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. "It's just a case of them joking around. The serious concern is somebody would get hurt, and the property damage is so significant we want parents to know serious felony charges could be filed depending on what could happen."

The devices are not considered bombs because they are typically in small plastic bottles and contain household chemicals, which react because of the pressure caused by being contained in the bottle. The chemical reaction devices can also cause property damage.

The public, in particular parents, should be aware of the danger of these devices, deputies said. If a suspected device is located, do not handle the item, but instead call 911 immediately.

Anyone with information about these cases is asked to call Sgt. Mike Strausbaugh of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office at 904-824-8304 or Crime Stoppers at 888-277-8477(TIPS).

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