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Three Franklin County students charged in pipe bomb explosions

September 26, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Three high school students were being held at the Abraxas Secure Treatment Facility in South Mountain, Pa., awaiting Monday detention hearings on charges they set off 10 pipe bombs over the past two weeks, according to Pennsylvania State Police.

Two of the juveniles, ages 16 and 17, were students at Chambersburg Area Senior High School and the third is a 17-year-old Chambersburg student who was attending the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, police said. They are charged as juveniles with possessing weapons of mass destruction, causing or risking a catastrophe, recklessly endangering another person and possession of instruments of crime, police said.

The charges stemmed from an investigation by the state police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Postal Service Inspector Division, the school district and other agencies into the bombings, said Chambersburg Area School District Director of Security Brett Hill. One student was taken into custody at the high school and another was arrested elsewhere, he said.

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The career and technology center student, whose pickup truck was searched Thursday in the parking lot of the center by a state police Hazardous Device and Explosives Section team, had been released to a parent, but was later taken into custody as the investigation progressed, Hill said.

The investigation is still ongoing and Hill said he did not know if any other students might be involved.

The bombings took place between Sept. 10 and Wednesday and occurred in the St. Thomas Township and Edenville Road areas. On one occasion, a pipe bomb was lit and thrown from a moving vehicle into a field, where it landed near a person feeding cats, police said. The bomb did not go off and was retrieved by the students the next day, police said.

An anonymous tip had been received that the career center student could be involved in the bombings and investigators met with Hill on Thursday.

"As they were meeting here with me ... we got another tip that there was either a pipe bomb or other evidence of these crimes in a vehicle at the career center," Hill said. The search of the pickup by police included the use of a robot, but police said no explosive devices or components of explosive devices were found.

A search of the center was also conducted using the Harrisburg Capitol Police K-9 Unit, police said. No devices were found in the building.

Career Center students were locked down in the building, but otherwise classes proceeded as normally as possible and the students were released on time, although they had to walk across Loop Road to get to their buses at the Nitterhouse Concrete property, Hill said.

School and law enforcement officials decided it was safer to keep the students in school then evacuate the center, Hill said.

"We didn't need to. The problem was outside the school, not inside," he said.

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