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Marines detained with military explosives described as 'remorseful'

April 6, 2012 | 12:52 pm

 Two Marines taken into custody in Redondo Beach in connection with explosive devices found in the back of their pickup truck were described by a local police captain as “remorseful.”

“They were shocked at the attention they had received,” said Capt. Jeff Hink, who arrived on scene at the South Bay Galleria at 10:45 p.m. Thursday. “They were young guys. They shouldn’t have had those devices and didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until they were knee-deep in it.”

Lance Cpl. Devin Gajewski, 24, and Pvt. Thomas Bazer, 20, were not in custody but have returned to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, according to public affairs office Capt. Nick Mannweiler.

Mannweiler identified Gajewski as a tank crewman with the First Tank Battalion, First Marine Division, and Bazer as a field radio operator in the same unit. Details regarding a hearing and possible charges have not been released. 

The two active-duty Marines were initially taken into custody by Redondo Beach police officers just after 8 p.m. Thursday before being released to investigators with the Naval Criminal Investigative Services.

According to Hink, Gajewski and Bazer were contacted by an officer from the Twentynine Palms military base and told to stay where they were in the vicinity of the Galleria and to cooperate with law enforcement.

The Marine Corps then contacted the Redondo Beach police department, who found the soldiers beside their vehicle in the Living Spaces parking lot. Police approached the situation with caution.

“We knew they were explosives, and they should not have been in their possession and could be dangerous if improperly used,” said Hink.

The Los Angeles County sheriff's bomb squad was called to the scene and employed a robot to investigate the devices. Ten explosive devices, commonly referred to as artillery simulators, were found inside the truck, police said.

Mannweiler described the devices as capable of producing a bright flash and a loud bang and are used to simulate mortar or artillery strikes. They do not produce shrapnel and are considered nonlethal.

According to Living Spaces assistant sales manager David Dominguez, 45, the store was busy when a dozen employees and nearly 30 customers were told to evacuate. Some customers, said Dominguez, were told to return to the store at another time to complete their purchases.

Customers were escorted out a side entrance, where they had to make arrangements to be picked up if their cars were in the vicinity of the Marine’s vehicle. Some cars were still in the parking lot Friday morning when Dominguez arrived for work.

Eventually, Redondo Beach police evacuated the Target with nearly 200 customers and the Nordstrom Rack with 50 to 100 customers.

The scene was eventually cleared by Redondo Beach police about 12:30 a.m.

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-- Thomas Curwen

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