Local bomb expert ‘fairly confident’ bombs are hoax explosive devices

Published: Oct. 25, 2018 at 6:03 PM EDT
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A local bomb expert tells us he's fairly confident that the bombs sent coast-to-coast are hoax devices, although still capable of doing very real damage.

Retired Capt. Kelly Mayer believes the bomber will be identified very soon.

Mayer retired after 23 years on the job as an FBI-certified bomb technician and firefighter.

"It's disturbing, clearly someone has a political aim,” Mayer said. “They have a grievance and they're a dangerous person."

But from the photos and X-rays that have been released so far, particularly with the one sent to CNN, he’s “fairly confident that they're hoax devices."

That’s because the devices are missing two key components to make it a true explosive device: an external battery and an initiator to trigger the explosion.

Still, make no mistake, "it's still a bomb. It's still potentially explosive."

However, they would need something like being kicked or dropped or even just heat to create an explosion.

That’s why bomb technicians should take no chances.

"Even after 10 of these, if I responded to the 11th one and I knew it was exactly like the other ones, I would continue to act like a potential high-order bomb," Mayer said.

Mayer said the good news is that investigators have access to extensive databases for wiring, batteries, even pipes, which can help lead them to the serial bomber. That’s even possible after the device explodes, which is something that hasn’t happened in the first 10 devices. But it’s certainly a lot easier if they haven't.

"There is a myriad of information that you can get from the devices because they didn't explode. Even if they had exploded, we can recover 95 percent of the bomb by weight,” he said. "There is an incredible wealth of information they're going to gain from these devices. I can easily find them developing a suspect within the next day or two."

Still, even if they never go off, the bomber may have accomplished their mission by instilling fear into the potential victims or even anyone who got close to the device.

"Absolutely, it leaves a scar,” he said. “People left thinking they are vulnerable, for who knows how long, maybe forever."

Mayer worked for the West Chester Fire Department in Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. It’s the home of former House Speaker John Boehner who had two bomb scares over the years, including when someone sent the office a bunch of raw bacon.

Mayer says he responded to about one incident every two weeks. About 95 percent of them were hoax devices.