Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Westhill HS Students Arrested After Setting Off Homemade Explosives (June 2011)

Response to Student Homemade ChemBombs in Maryland 2008


On July 2011, in Stamford, Connecticut, two city high school students face felony charges after setting off two small homemade bombs containing household chemicals on a friday morning at Westhill High School. A Westhill employee told police he would seek medical attention after inhaling fumes from one of the exploded devices, which were set off in trash bins. No other injuries were reported.

The bombs, contained in plastic bottles, produced loud explosions around 9:45 a.m. in two cafeterias at the Roxbury Road high school, said Stamford Police Sgt. Joseph Kennedy. The noise from the device caused "sheer panic" in the cafeteria, where a school resource police officer was posted.

The devices did not cause a fire, but one trash bin began smoking in the Raynor cafeteria, Kennedy said. An unidentified teacher or administrator went to the trash bin and inhaled chemical fumes and planned to seek medical attention. The exact contents of the homemade chemical bombs were unknown, but Kennedy said the two students filled plastic bottles with household cleaning solutions and mixed them with aluminum foil to cause a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction generate enough overpressure to cause the plastic containers to explode and release chemical liquid and vapors nearby.

Police officers and school administrators used surveillance video footage to identify the two 16-year-olds who set off the devices. They were arrested about 45 minutes after the explosions, Kennedy said. The students were charged with felony counts of second-degree assault, risk of injury to a minor, first-degree reckless endangerment and manufacturing bombs. They are being held at the juvenile detention facility at Bridgeport. Their names are being withheld because they are juveniles.

Kennedy said it is unclear whether the 16-year-olds were involved in a Wednesday incident at Westhill in which students threw water balloons filled with bleach at each other. School officials wouldn't disclose how the students will be disciplined. "Unfortunately, student privacy laws don't allow me to share the specific details of the disciplinary actions that will be taken," said Sarah Arnold, a spokeswoman for the district. "But the administration is going to pursue the maximum penalties."

According to the district's student behavior policy, students in possession of "explosive materials in school, or ignition of any flammable material in school" can be considered for removal from class, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension and expulsion. Shannon O'Connor, a 16-year-old junior at Westhill, said she was sitting in the cafeteria several feet from the trash bin when one of the teens threw the small homemade device into it. The loud explosion startled everyone in the cafeteria, but the panic quickly subsided. "Everyone just screamed and jumped," she said Friday afternoon. "It scared me and I wasn't even near it."

Points for Consideration:
  • It is a fact of life that teenagers left unsupervised and armed with a little information will try or experiment with chemicals and incendiary devices creating dangerous situations. The phrase " is all fun and games until someone loses an eye!" becomes deadly serious when kids can be injured. Many things that start out as a prank or something that seems cool turn out deadly and legally serious for the adolescent participants.
  • Taken to a nefarious extreme, the Columbine incident was planned as a large two phased bombing attack to be followed by a shooting spree to kill the remaining survivors. Bombs (in duffel bags) were placed in the cafeteria during the busiest lunch period, but failed to detonate.
  • Google search how to make a homemade device and you will be taken to YouTube where you can watch short films that will show you how. What is more disconcerting is to watch those short films made by kids who are demonstrating how to do this or that and even the film footage is an accident waiting to happen. Young kids playing with mixing interactive chemicals without any idea of the danger at close range.
  • Parents / Guardians, Teachers, and students need to be tuned to that special frequency that if they "see something or hear something, they need to say something" to an authority figure so immediate action can be taken.
  • The proper placement of cameras can be invaluable in finding out who was involved in an incident and what actually occurred.
  • The reaction of students, school workers, and faculty to an explosion is often overlooked to include the unintended response (heart attack, anxiety attack, asthma attack, etc.) can turn a prank into a more serious affair (serious injury or death).


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mexican Cartels Recruiting American Children Part II - Elisabeth Mandala

Elisabeth Mandala, the Sugar Land high school senior found beaten to death in Mexico. Her body was returned to the United States with her family from Monterrey. Her body was found with two slain men in a truck in Mexico, near Monterrey. Friends described her earlier this week as a sweet and caring young woman, who loved to ride horses and participated in soccer and clubs at school. But she appeared to be living a double life. After her disappearance, her mother told police her daughter had wanted to be a coyote, a person who smuggles illegal immigrants into the U.S.

It's not known what Mandala's relationship was to the two men in the car. Police have said all three were beaten to death and at least one of the men had a criminal record, although they can't say what it was. On Thursday, the Mexican Office of the General Prosecutor said it had no information to provide on the case.

“She was the kind of person that you couldn't help but like, get along with or laugh with,” wrote school friend Amber Lucas, who said she had known Elisabeth since elementary school. “Elisabeth was an amazing friend, always there for people. She would do anything for a friend that needed her.” Ana Mandic, who has known Elisabeth since fourth grade, described her as a fun, conversational jokester. “She wasn't, at least I figured, the type to really hide anything,” Mandic said.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mexican Cartels Recruiting American High School Students Part I

“Mexican Cartels have corrupted nearly an entire generation of youth living in Northern Mexico and they seek to corrupt our youth as well to further their smuggling operations,” said Steven C. McCraw, DPS Director. “The Mexican Cartels value American (Texas) teenagers for their ability to serve as expendable labor in many different roles and they have unlimited resources to recruit our children.”

Here is a warning for parents about a disturbing new trend. Mexican Drug cartels are seeking younger and younger recruits, and they're finding them in American schools, at present in Texas. Six of the seven Mexican cartels have established command and control networks in Texas. The link between Mexican Drug Cartels and gangs which help promote and sell drugs is apparent. There are thousands of potential candidates for cartel recruitment in Houston area schools. They include kids who are U.S. citizens, speak Spanish and can blend in on both sides of the border. The DPS says parents should pay attention to who their kids are hanging out with since recruiters may not be who you might think. "The people recruiting them may not be much older, maybe a 16 or 17-year-old, but they're tracking them down, talking to them, telling them how glamorous it is to deal and traffic drugs," said Commander Steen.
A couple of incidents within the last 30 days prompted the warning, but the increased threat began a few years ago. Here are some examples:

  • Elisabeth Mandala (an American 18 yr old) left Kempner High School in Sugar Land for Mexico. She wound up beaten to death in a pick up truck along with two men carrying fake identification. It's believed the violent drug cartels recruited Mandala to smuggle undocumented immigrants across the border.
  • Just last week in a border county officers caught a 12-year-old American boy driving a stolen pick up truck with more than 800 pounds of marijuana.
  • Last month two Texas teens were lured to Mexico where they were kidnapped, beaten, ransomed and released in a remote area along the Rio Grande River.
  • Within the past year, more than 25 juveniles have been arrested for drug trafficking in one Texas border county alone.

"The cartel influence is here," said Duane Steen, regional commander for the Texas Department of Public Safety. The DPS is warning parents across the state that children are at risk of being seduced by the cartels that seem to be stepping up their game. "Sometimes this may be delivering drugs. It may be crossing drugs over from Mexico or involvement in some of the other violent activities," said Steen.

"Recruiting is easy for such a vulnerable population," said Kim Ogg, the former gang task force director for the city of Houston. Ogg suspects the cartels are recruiting through gangs. "Some see it (the gang) as their family. Some are attracted to the money, drugs, guns, women, and others are attracted because they have family members in gangs and it seems normal," said Ogg. What the cartels won't tell recruits is how it all could end with jail, injury or death.

As the Hispanic and Latino demographic in America and our schools increase, we must remain vigilant against the impact of Mexican and Latin American cartels and groups, drugs and gangs in our communities, schools, and population. All Drug Cartels from Mexico or anywhere else are a national security problem and threaten the safety and security of our schools as well. We must protect our children.