Local News

Gardener finds mortar shell outside Durham home

Posted July 6, 2010 8:21 a.m. EDT
Updated July 6, 2010 4:17 p.m. EDT

— Durham police closed some streets and evacuated houses Tuesday morning after a World War II mortar shell was found outside a home.

A man doing yard work at 3529 Mossdale Ave. found the shell under some pine needles at about 7 a.m., police said.

Homeowner Albert Woodin said his landscaper picked the object up and shouted, "Look what I found." Woodin said he immediately recognized it as unexploded ordnance.

"My heart went in my mouth. I took it from him. I said, 'You should not have lifted this thing up at all,' and I gently put it down," Woodin said.

Police blocked off Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway at Old Chapel Hill and Dixon roads, and area residents who were ordered out of their homes had to wait nearby for the Durham County Sheriff's Office bomb squad.

The bomb squad went to Woodin's home only after checking on a suspicious package that was found on the sidewalk outside a state Department of Revenue office in southwest Durham.

"This is the most excitement our street has ever had since I came here in '64," said Woodin's neighbor, Kenneth Bills. "As long as nobody gets hurt, that's fine."

Capt. John Flamion Jr., commander of the bomb squad, said the fuse and powder had been removed from the mortar shell, rendering it inert.

Flamion said it's unclear where the mortar came from, but he noted it appears to have been in Woodin's yard for some time. Investigators said it's unlikely it was from Camp Butner, which was used as an Army training facility during World War II, because it's too far away.

Bomb squads across the region have responded to two other cases of unexploded ordnance in recent weeks.

A contractor was cited for trying to carry three World War II-era mortars onto Fort Bragg last month. A Halifax County teen found a live grenade in the grass on Friday while mowing the lawn.