St. Petersburg Times

Car endures crash, bomb
Someone set off an explosive on the front of a Tampa man's Honda Civic. Is it connected to a wreck the night before?
By EMILY NIPPS, Times Staff Writer
Published July 3, 2005

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TAMPA - Not far from the posh stretch of Bayshore Boulevard, Jules Verne Court is the type of street where neighbors smile and wave hello. Lawns are generally well kept, homes can sell as high as $400,000, and crime is rare.

So when neighbors along the street were awakened by what they described as a "sonic boom" around 3:42 a.m. on Saturday, no one suspected it might be a bomb on one of their neighbor's cars.

"Everyone here looks out for everyone else," said Sterling Remer, a real estate agent who lives on Jules Verne. "If someone has a baby, neighbors will cook meals for the mother. ... It's just a very nice street."

Nice or not, that noise was, indeed, a bomb, or as Tampa police bomb squad technician Steve Metzler described it - a "destructive device system."

The explosive did minor damage to 26-year-old Ian Baldwin's 1997 Honda Civic at 5225 Jules Verne Court. Baldwin, who lives in the home owned by his parents, said he slept through the noise and had "no clue" who would want to damage his car.

Coincidentally, Baldwin's car already had extensive rear-end damage from an accident on Dale Mabry Highway the night before. Hours later, somebody must have placed some type of explosive device on the front windshield of the car.

"This was a little bigger than fireworks," Tampa assistant fire marshal Geoff Brown said.

Although the explosion did not appear to do much damage beyond some cracks in the windshield, police took the incident seriously enough to turn it over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for further investigation.

"This was a destructive device system and possessing that would be a felony," Metzler said. "This wasn't the type of thing you could buy at a Black Cat (fireworks) tent. It could cause a fatality if used the wrong way."

Tampa police Sgt. Michael Kitts said he didn't think Baldwin's car accident and the early-morning explosion were related, but he did think the latter damage to Baldwin's car was certainly intentional.

"I don't know if this kid has enemies or if this was just a random act," Kitts said. "The fact that his car was not on a main street or somewhere where the general public passes through makes you think he was targeted."

[Last modified July 3, 2005, 02:00:20]