Fake grenade causes police station evacuation

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October 14, 2011

12:51 AM

A woman carrying a fake grenade in her pocket entered the Williamsburg City Police station Friday morning and deposited it on the desk, causing the building to be evacuated and the U.S. Department of Defense to be called to the scene.

The woman, who has a military background, picked up what she thought was a deformed, unexploded, military-issue grenade off of a street close to the intersection of Matoaka Court and Richmond Rd.

“At 9:50 a.m. this morning, a civilian arrived at the Williamsburg Police Station with an item she believed might be an unexploded ordnance device,” Williamsburg Communication Specialist Kate Hoving said in a press release.

A Yorktown Naval Weapons Station team was dispatched to the police station once the Department of Defense was notified by the Williamsburg Fire Department of the incident.

The device was determined to be a cigarette lighter shaped to look like a grenade.

“If I had picked it up and held it like the individual, I might have ascertained that it was a novelty device, but I didn’t actually handle the device,” Williamsburg Fire Chief William Dent said in response to criticisms that the cigarette lighter was not initially detected. “No one from the police station or the fire department handled the device. The woman walked into the police station with it in her pocket and set it down on the desk.”

The Yorktown Special Weapons Team was called instead of the Police Bomb Squad because the grenade was suspected to be military-issue.

“So, once the Williamsburg Police Department was concerned about it, we decided to err on the side of caution,” Dent said. “If we were 100 percent sure it wasn’t a device, we wouldn’t have evacuated.”

Dent added that it is common for people to tamper with devices, even cigarette lighters.

“We take the necessary precautions to protect the public, and a lot of people are looking up on the internet saying they could tell it wasn’t a real grenade, but it’s not always that simplified,” Dent said.

This is the first incident of its kind that Dent has experienced in the city.

“Our message is to everyone, whether they have military experience or not, just leave it and let us respond to that scene. We have had people transport actual devices in their vehicles, and fortunately none have exploded, but, you know, we don’t want that happening,” Dent said.

The Williamsburg Police Department declined to comment on the situation.

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