LAPORTE | The explosive device seized last week at the LaPorte County Fair was potentially powerful enough to injure or even kill people — despite its seemingly harmless name.
LaPorte County police said the homemade device shaped like a brick is commonly referred to as a sparkler bomb.
“It can be deadly,” said Pat Cicero, LaPorte County police chief of detectives.
Two 16-year-old boys remained in custody Tuesday in the LaPorte County Juvenile Services Center on preliminary charges of possession of a destructive device and manufacture of a destructive device, both Class C felonies, said LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi.
Szilagyi said they are being held pending a decision by a juvenile court magistrate on whether sufficient evidence exists to bring formal charges against the LaPorte-area teens.
Szilagyi said the charges do not qualify for an automatic waiver of the case into adult court, where they each would face the possibility of two to eight years in prison.
Any waiver of the case into adult court would be made by Nancy Gettinger, the LaPorte Circuit Court Juvenile Court magistrate.
Prosecutors first would have to petition the court for a waiver based on factors like the seriousness of the crime and if the juveniles have a prior arrest record.
Officers acting on a tip about 9 p.m. Thursday recovered the sparkler bomb from inside a backpack one of the boys was carrying.
According to police, the device was taken away from the populated area of the fairgrounds and dismantled.
Cicero said sparklers, firecrackers and bottle rockets were wrapped in duct tape.
He said such a device becomes explosive from the pressure that builds as the fireworks begin detonating inside the tape.
"If you put a whole bunch of those together and it's lit, all of that energy has to go somewhere," Cicero said. "The heat and pressure builds up in the tape and explodes."
Cicero said the device in slang terms is known as a sparkler bomb.
Police, though, are hesitating to officially categorize the device as a bomb.
Police said one of the boys made the device and the other took it to the fairgrounds to detonate near the carnival rides.
Cicero said it's believed their intentions were not to harm or maim anyone.
"I think it was the thrill of the moment," Cicero said.
LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said the device was recovered in seven minutes after tips were received that the boy had an explosive on him at the fairgrounds.
Given the large crowd at the fair at the time, Mollenhauer said the fast work of his officers kept a potential tragedy from happening.
"It could have been bad," Cicero said.
Police did not inform the public about the device right away, choosing to wait until Monday to disclose what had happened.
Mollenhauer said that was done because the investigation was ongoing still and the potential for danger to the public was quickly diffused.
"There was no need to right away," Mollenhauer said.