Grenade Thief's Tracks Were Covered Every Step of the Way

By a series of security failures
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 15, 2021 1:57 PM CDT
Military Has No Idea Who Took 32 Armor-Piercing Grenades
In this July 2017 image released by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command on Feb. 9, 2021, a storage container of explosive ordnance shows signs of theft after arriving at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa.   (U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command via AP)

The green, metal box was stuffed inside a bright pink pillowcase and stashed in the bushes behind Christopher Zachery’s house. He hauled it out for a better look. Inside were 30 armor-piercing grenades with a kill radius of nearly 50 feet. "I was scared," said Zachery. And confused. How did these high-powered explosives end up in his southwest Atlanta backyard? Investigators determined the waylaid grenades were last seen eight month prior on an ammunition train that rolled out from Florida. Someone had stolen them somewhere on the rails to Pennsylvania, another example in an AP investigation that shows how the military’s vast supply chain is susceptible to theft. In the case of the grenades, a series of security failures covered any tracks the thief left. Armed guards who accompanied the shipment reported nothing.

When the train reached the Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania, it spent the night in an unsecured staging area with no surveillance. Workers and an inspector didn't verify whether anti-theft seals on each container were intact. The first laborer who saw the severed wooden framing used to hold pallets of canisters together thought it broke in transit. Then he noticed a metal strap that holds each canister snugly to the wood also was cut, and one box was gone. Workers unpacked the entire container to see whether anything else was stolen, disposing of debris. For investigators, that meant the crime scene was contaminated beyond repair. The last hope of finding clues came when the grenades showed up in Atlanta. But instead of treating the canister as evidence, explosives specialists from Dobbins Air Reserve Base took it and blew it up. There was just one thing. The canisters are packed with 32 rounds. This one only had 30. Two remain missing. (Read the full piece for much more.)

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