Mortar found in Los Banos and destroyed

August 16, 2013 

A mortar shell, apparently from the World War II era, was disposed of near City Hall Friday.

At 2:03 p.m. the Los Banos Police Department was handed a mortar by a resident who found it buried in his yard.

“Some people found it in their backyard and brought it to us because they thought we might be able to dispose of it,” Cmdr. Ray Reyna Jr. said. “They didn’t know what else to do with it.”

The Merced Police Department Bomb Squad was called.

Police blocked off J and Fifth streets and placed the device on City Hall’s side lawn. The Los Banos Chamber of Commerce, which sits across the street from City Hall, was evacuated and City Hall employees were sent home 90 minutes early.

Fire Chief Chet Guintini, who is a veteran, said the size of the device indicates that it is from the World War II era. The bomb squad used its robot to retrieve the mortar shell at 4:50 p.m.

It was determined that attempting to destroy the mortar on site would have caused damage to several windows in the downtown area. The bomb squad transported the mortar shell to a safe location and buried it in a field before detonating it behind a seven-foot dirt berm.

Police Chief Gary Brizzee said people who find explosive devices at their homes should call 911 and evacuate the area.

“We’ve had people who’ve found live grenades. Don’t touch it,” Brizzee said. “The bomb squad recommended a 300-foot perimeter in this case, but typically it's even larger.”

The Los Banos Fire Department assisted police and the bomb squad with the incident.

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