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thedrifter
01-31-07, 09:55 AM
Posted on: Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dumped ammo triggers concerns in Waimanalo

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

"We're a favorite dumping ground, but it's scary that somebody could think they could get away with something like this."

The discovery Friday of 15 rounds of practice ammunition the kind used in rifle-mounted grenade launchers on the back roads of Waimanalo sent a ripple of worry through the community and has local leaders as well as military authorities pondering one key question:

Where did the rounds come from?

The 40 mm ammunition was found about 10 feet off Waikupanaha Street in a rural area known for illegal dumping. A man searching for cans and bottles alerted police to his discovery across from the Na Lio O Waimanalo Ranch.

Officers secured the area and had the shells safely removed within hours.

But the situation could have had a far different outcome, and that's what worries local residents.

"Kids come up here looking for wild chickens," said June Pires, who owns Na Lio O Waimanalo Ranch. "We're just lucky there was school Friday. If (it) was on a Saturday, I couldn't guarantee something wouldn't have happened."

POTENTIAL DANGER

Honolulu police Capt. Frank Fujii said that under proper use the rounds are safe but out in the open, they can be dangerous even though they contain no projectile.

"These are practice rounds but still, their primers are intact, and if you hit it with a hammer or something ... there's no telling how that explosion is going to go," he said.

Pires said she learned about the ammunition from her niece at about 7 a.m. Friday and was warned about traveling on the road until the rounds were removed. But police let her through to take care of her horses, Pires said. The rounds were taken away at about 10 a.m., she said.

"According to the police, he said it was there a couple of days," Pires said.

The Marines and Army use these rounds for practice, but Lt. Binford Strickland, spokesman for Marine Corps Base Hawai'i, said any missing ammunition would have been reported to the command.

The ammunition is used only at the Kane'ohe base and Schofield Barracks ranges, he said.

The rounds are fired from a grenade launcher that is attached to an M-16 rifle, Strickland said, adding that as far as he knew, only the military and police SWAT units use that caliber round (40 mm refers to the diameter of the round).

As for the origin of the rounds, the Marines will coordinate with HPD, Strickland said.

"We'll determine whether or not the rounds originated from the Marine Corps, and then at that time we'll be able to decide if further action is necessary," Strickland said.

The Honolulu Police Department's Specialized Services Division removed the ammunition and will dispose of it, Fujii said.

He advised anyone wishing to dispose of unwanted ammunition to call the police and they will take it away.

"We want to get it out of the community," he said.

CLOSE CALL

The thought of 15 rounds of live practice ammunition in the neighborhood sent shudders through the community, said Wilson Ho, chairman of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board.

Ho said he's been asking around to see if anyone has seen anything. He's also checking with people who patrol the area.

He worried about what would have happened if children had found the rounds and decided to tinker with them.

"It's scary," Ho said. "We're a favorite dumping ground, but it's scary that somebody could think they could get away with something like this."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.



Ellie