explosive powder during LAX training event

BY VINCE ECHAVARIA

A computer bag containing explosive powder used to train bomb-sniffing dogs was left unattended by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) K-9 explosive detection unit at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Tuesday, March 22nd, resulting in a minor evacuation in Terminal 6.

An officer of the Los Angeles World Airports (the city department that operates city airports) Airport Police Division arrived with a bomb-sniffing dog at the ground level of Terminal 6 at about 8:15 p.m., after an FBI agent reported to police that a computer bag had been left unattended since about 7:30 p.m.

When the Airport Police officer had the dog sniff the bag to detect possible explosives, the dog hesitated, but did not sit down to signal the presence of explosives, airport officials said.

Airport Police examined the bag and discovered six PVC pipes capped at the ends, prompting police to immediately evacuate everyone within 300 feet of the area.

The Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad was called.

“Airport Police officers were within proper protocols to open the bag, given that the dog did not alert,” said Nancy Castles, LAX spokeswoman.

Castles said that since the incident occurred at the lower arrivals level of Terminal 6, no flight delays occurred as a result of the evacuation.

“The location was not in an area where there was significant impact on the arrival operations,” Castles said.

When bomb squad officers arrived at the scene at about 9:25 p.m., they examined the bag and determined that the contents appeared to be police training materials, Castles said.

After bomb squad officers called the LAPD K-9 explosive detection unit, it was determined that the K-9 unit had accidentally left the bag behind after conducting a training exercise earlier in the day, she said.

The incident ended at about 9:45 p.m., she said.

Castles said LAX Airport Police are continuing the investigation because the computer bag contents did not appear to be standard testing and training materials for federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) certified canines.

But LAPD spokesman Lt. Paul Vernon said the PVC pipes, which contained smokeless gun powder for a simulated pipe bomb, were standard materials used by the LAPD to train bomb-sniffing dogs.

The powder inside the pipes is explosive, but the simulated pipe bombs did not include fuses or blasting caps, which are used to ignite the bombs, Vernon said.

“They did not pose a danger because there were no caps or fuse,” he said.

Although there was no fuse, the pipes did contain explosive powder which bomb-sniffing dogs should detect in such training, Vernon said.

The Airport Police canine that was used for the incident was recently trained and certified by the TSA, Castles said.

The LAPD conducts training exercises to continuously evaluate dogs for bomb-sniffing accuracy, Vernon said.

“In this case, through the interaction, that dog didn’t alert,” he said.

The airport has taken the dog out of service as a precaution until the issue is resolved, Castles said.

Although the LAPD is investigating why the K-9 unit training bag was inadvertently left unattended, the department has “established two additional measures” as a result of the incident, Vernon said.

The first new measure is to appoint a safety officer during similar training exercises at LAX to account for all equipment, he said.

The LAPD will also notify the other agencies at the airport of the training sessions, so that LAX officials will know where the training materials came from, he said.

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