Local News

Brothers Detained in Scrap Plant Ammo Case

Posted February 15, 2008

— Federal authorities are holding two brothers in connection with the discovery of military explosives at a Raleigh scrap-metal recycling plant, authorities said Friday.

Meanwhile, a team of munitions experts from Fort Bragg blew up the last of the devices that were found Tuesday at Raleigh Metals Recycling after at least one exploded.

Javier Gomez-Urieta and Salvador Gomez-Urieta were arrested Tuesday on immigration violations and were being held for questioning in munitions case by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, said Capt. David Smith, of the Sanford Police Department.

Members of the Sanford Police Department's Special Enforcement Unit searched a mobile home at 2725 Carver Drive in Sanford and found artillery shells in the yard similar to the ones that were dropped off at Raleigh Metals Recycling plant, Smith said. Most of the shells were spent, but at least two were live rounds, he said.

The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also are investigating the case.

At least 18 anti-tank projectiles and three 90 mm rifle rounds were dropped off at Raleigh Metals Recycling last week in a load of scrap. As the material was processed on Tuesday, at least one of the devices went off, injuring two plant workers.

Scrap plant owner Greg Brown provided authorities with information that identified the people who sold the munitions to the plant, and Raleigh police traced two men to the Sanford area, Smith said.

The men had several addresses in the area, making it more difficult for officers to locate them, he said. One man was found in Broadway, while the other was found in Harnett County, he said.

"That's a terrible thing going on up there," said Tony Bradley, who lives near the Sanford mobile home park where the artillery shells were found. "I'm thinking about it every time I see it on the news. I see another one being exploded, and to think that's here in our little community, that's earth-shattering."

Munitions experts from Fort Bragg found unexploded ordnance in the machinery and in bales of scrap at Raleigh Metals Recycling and decided it was safer to detonate the devices at the site than to move them elsewhere.

Thirty-four detonations were used over four days to destroy the devices, and police said Friday afternoon that the process had been completed.

The detonations required Raleigh police to close Garner Road between Rush Street and Newcombe Road every day since Tuesday and forced nearby residents to evacuate their homes three times this week. The residents were allowed to return home Wednesday and Thursday night sand told to leave the next morning as detonations resumed.

"This is an unusual situation that's inconvenienced and disrupted the lives of 25 to 30 people, but as always, safety is important," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "That has been the priority, and that's how it's been handled."

City officials promised Friday to work with area residents whose lives have been disrupted by the incident. Updated information would be hung on front doors in the neighborhoods near the plant Friday afternoon and calls would be made to all residents in the area, Meeker said.

"We thought this might be a one-day operation," City Councilman James West said. "We are truly committed to making sure people get their lives back to normal and that they're safe."

Brown said all of his employees would go through new training before Raleigh Metals Recycling reopens. An ex-military officer who specializes in munitions would be brought in to teach workers how to distinguish live ammunition from spent shells, he said.

The plant routinely accepts spent ammunition for processing but has a policy against buying live rounds, Brown said.


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  • nisa-pizza Feb 18, 2008

    The fact that ANYONE could've gotten hold of these explosives should be a wake up call to our Homeland Insecurity.

    I hope they realize that this is including your basic Timothy McVeighs, terrorist crossing out borders, Illegal aliens or worse yet kids looking to gather metal for some cash.

    Any word of whether or not Homeland Insecurity has gotten involved or has even inquired about this situation?

  • Sandollar Feb 18, 2008

    I too think this is very scary. These illegals are here because they are poor. Poor people can accept monies from terrorists. Terrorists have trained in North Carolina before. The US Military is in a war because of terrorists. If illegals are allowed on bases it seems that we are not winning this war on terror. I too think the illegal situation is way out of hand. If Mexicans can come across the border why can't other nationalities. If our bases are infilltrated, how safe are we. I just do not feel safe anymore.

  • Space Mountain Feb 18, 2008

    Illegals in this country are getting out of control. The whole system needs to be overhauled.

    This is a very scary story. No telling what they were going to do with these things.

  • RonnieR Feb 18, 2008

    Panther, the 57 and 90 were shoulder fired, the 106 could be ground mounted or vehicle mounted, it also had a .50 spotting

  • RonnieR Feb 18, 2008

    Bob, the 90mm is one othe recoiless rifles, the others that
    I recall are 57 mm and 106 mm. They don't recoil as the gases
    vent out the back, like a rocket launcher. My ole outfit, the
    199th Inf Bde, was one of the first (1966) to use the 106 in an indirect fire role, as we just did not need them in a direct
    fire role.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 15, 2008

    Hey come on, what is all the ruckus. These poor guys just want to make an honest living. Thats why they broke the law crossing our border, broke the law having fake IDs, broke the law with explosives. It is only because they want to make an honest living. So I wonder whose Social Security numbers they have been using? Oops another law broken. Gee these poor honest illegal criminals. Too bad they did not wash their truck in Raleigh, they would have had to cough up some money.

  • S82R Feb 15, 2008

    Wow. Lots of issues with this (and with several of you BTW).

    1. ILLEGAL aliens got their hands on LIVE AMMO. Hey, at least they weren't terrorists right.

    2. Ever thought of fencing in military compounds? Oh, that's right if they did that and somebody tried to climb over, fell down and got hurt they could sue the gov't (just like they can you if they fall climbing into your yard).

    3. Seriously- somebody said the city should close down the scrap metal processors. Are you kidding me? Close down a LEGITIMATE business? With that kind of logic we should stop running city buses (people use them to go do all sorts of illegal things), we should close down all establishments that serve or sell alcohol (drunk drivers), and the list could go on!


  • blackdog Feb 15, 2008

    ....anyone ordinance savy care to comment on the amount of RDX and C5b this amounts to ?....

  • Realamerican71 Feb 15, 2008

    Seriously... FLAME AWAY!

    Think about it, two illegal immigrants managed to lay thier hands on LIVE AMMO! Live rounds, live anti tank rounds. Ok, maybe I'm paranoid but if they are able to get a hold of this stuff and sell it for the price of scrap what could someone do with a more sinister plan. Whatever, flame me. It does'nt matter, I've been there and done that! Have you? The bottom line is that 2 Illegal immigrants have gotten a hold of live rounds. Period, end of discussion. Deport them ASAP, all of them! Then it seems pretty important that we figure out where the ordanace originated from. Hopefully not DRMO.

  • ncwebguy Feb 15, 2008

    There is plenty of fail to go around:

    - Ft. Bragg relying on little more than "Federal property - no trespassing" as the only defense from keeping people off a part of base littered with live ammo. Maybe the soldiers that would take care of this are serving in Iraq and Afganistan?

    - the scavengers are lucky the munitions didn't explode while being collected, stored in their yard next to kids' playthings(do not taunt the happy fun ammo!), and transported from Sanford to Raleigh. But the army can't transport them elsewhere for disposal. Did the bailing process corrupt the integretiy of the casings?

    - employees at the scrap metal plant forgetting their "don't accept live ammo" training. How long have they been accepting these scavengers' "scrap".

    - army/city/whoever else for the multiple evacuations and lengthy process.

    There seem to be some parallels to the EQ fire in Apex, but luckily it was just explosive, not toxic. Glad it is over! Hope it won't happen again!