New bomb squad tool neutralizes suspicious devices - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

New bomb squad tool neutralizes suspicious devices

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - New hardware unveiled Thursday by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department could help area law enforcement agencies in the event of a serial bomber like the one who terrorized Austin, Texas, according to explosives experts.

The specialized steel detonation chamber, also called a total-containment vessel, can be used to safely detonate explosive devices, contain potentially harmful gases and secure samples for evidence collection, said Sgt. Greg Hampton of the sheriff's Bomb/Arson Unit.

Officials showed off the trailer-mounted apparatus, obtained via a $350,000 federal grant, during a late-morning briefing at sheriff's headquarters in Kearny Mesa.

"We're able to contain an explosive shot inside and not subject us or the public to any weapons of mass destruction -- chemicals, biological, radiological materials -- that might be inside an (improvised explosive device)," Hampton said. "And then we're able to take samples and store them for evidence."

The equipment will help the highly trained eight-member bomb squad "keep the public as safe as possible," Hampton said.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will share use of the total-containment vessel, and it will be deployed throughout the county as needed, officials said.

"If a similar incident like in Austin, Texas, happens in San Diego, the (containment chamber) could be used to render suspicious packages safe and to collect evidence," sheriff's officials said.

Two people were killed and five others injured between March 2 and March 20 in a series of bombings in Austin and surrounding areas. The suspected perpetrator, 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt of Pflugerville, Texas, killed himself with an explosive device March 21 as law enforcement closed in on him.

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