DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A new report criticizes the handling of an explosive device found outside a Detroit federal building and kept inside for three weeks before authorities were alerted.
The 37-page report by the U.S. Homeland Security Department also faults the training, hiring practices and oversight of security guards at the McNamara Federal Building — where a tool bag containing explosive components was left on Feb. 26, 2011, but not identified until March 18.
It was an embarrassing incident for the government: A guard brought the bag inside the building where it sat for weeks until it was scanned. No one was hurt, and a bomb squad detonated the explosives on Belle Isle.
The exploded materials included pieces of PVC pipe, a timer and black electrical tape, along with a handwritten note that read, “1. Turn Switch 2. Plug, in,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit filed in federal court.
The report says the device didn’t explode but represented a serious safety risk. It says three guards were fired, a fourth resigned and five others were suspended for their involvement.
According to the report, many procedures were not followed over the three weeks the package was stored, as the guards tried to figure out what was in the safe, The Detroit News reported.
“These attempts included visual inspections of the bag’s interior, shaking and moving the metal safe inside the bag that contained the IED, and screening the bag with an x-ray machine. During these attempts, both guards and supervisors incorrectly identified the bag’s contents as a gun safe, a safe, and (in the case of the X-ray screening) (blacked-out portion),” the report reads.
Homeland Security Undersecretary Rand Beers said the department has since issued standardized national guidance on how to deal with unattended suspicious packages.
Police arrested and charged 43-year-old Gary Mikulich days after the device was detonated. Nearly one year after his arrest, the Upper Peninsula man was found mentally ill and incompetent to stand trial. He remains in custody.
Mikulich’s family said he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia 18 years ago and often refuses to take medication.
According to an FBI affidavit filed in court, Mikulich has complained to the police about the FBI and a “card system” more than a dozen times since January. The complaints claim the “card system” has “led to the murder of thousands of people and has attacked him.”
A Feb. 11 fax read: “This card system is going berserk for some reason. They are making threats of hitting the local police, sheriff’s office, and state police. They are threatening to murder me too.”
The FBI doesn’t “have any idea” what is meant by a “card system,” agency spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.
Mikulich referred to himself as “President Mikulich” and the “nominated president of the United States of America,” the FBI said.
Milulich is charged with of attempting to damage and destroy the McNamara Federal Building by means of an explosive; and using and carrying a destructive device during and in relation to a crime of violence. If convicted as charged, he faces three to more than 30 years in prison.
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