Hemet homes evac’d after search yields explosive device

HEMET — A neighborhood was evacuated and a felon – who was out of jail on bail for previous charges – was arrested again, Friday, March 22, after a probation compliance check uncovered a suspected improvised explosive device. Sheriff’s bomb squad members later detonated the device, which officials later described as a pipe bomb.

Yesterday’s incident happened in the 44000 block of Merced Road, one street east of Valle Vista Park, in an unincorporated part of east Hemet, just north of Valle Vista.

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Yesterday’s hours-long ordeal began when Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force members conducted a probation compliance check on 42-year-old, Hemet resident, Jose Angel Briones, Hemet Police Sgt. Bob Nishida later explained

According to Nishida, Briones was already on PRCS probation for willful child cruelty. Additionally, he was out of jail on bail after he was recently arrested in Banning on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of large capacity magazines, being a felon in possession of ammunition, and possession of a stolen vehicle.

During their search, task force members say they found ammunition and a suspected explosive device.

Sheriff’s bomb squad members prepare to render a suspected pipe bomb safe inside a Hemet neighborhood. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

Officials at the scene immediately evacuated the residence and called for assistance from Riverside County Sheriff’s Hazardous Device Team, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire, AMR, and other emergency personnel. Officers quickly cordoned off the area and began evacuating all homes within 300 feet of the residence where the suspected pipe bomb had been discovered.

The neighborhood was soon filled with marked and unmarked emergency vehicles, including bomb squad members, who were later seen setting up the equipment they needed to render the suspected explosive device safe.

As crowds of area residents and curious onlookers watched and filmed the ongoing ordeal with their cell phones from a safe distance, a bomb squad member entered the home’s garage and was seen using a long gripping device to carry the suspected pipe bomb out to the middle of the street. The device was then detonated and rendered safe without further incident.

The homeowner later claimed that the suspected explosive device found inside the home’s garage was not a pipe bomb, but a part off one of their vehicles, which they described as an axle off a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

Nearly three hours after discovering the suspected pipe bomb, area residents were allowed to return to their homes.

A sheriff’s bomb squad member carries a suspected pipe bomb to a special device used to detonate explosive materials. Eddie George/Hemet News photo

Jasmine Nelson, who lives with her grandmother near where yesterday’s bomb scare happened, later told RCNS the whole incident had left her and her family “rattled.”

“It’s really scary to think that someone who lives just a few homes away from you would have something so dangerous in their home,” Nelson explained. “Even though this is usually a quiet neighborhood, things like this remind us all that we never really know who our neighbors are or what they’re up to inside their homes.”

“I’m just glad nobody was hurt,” said Nelson.

Briones was eventually booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center on suspicion of possession of a destructive device or bomb making materials, being a felon in possession of ammunition, committing a felony while out on bail, and violation of probation.

Jail records indicate he remains in custody on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at an unspecified court, March 26.

Anyone with further information about this investigation or Briones’ alleged criminal activities is encouraged to contact Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force members at (951) 765-2400. Callers can refer to incident file number GH190810001 and can remain anonymous.

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Eddie George/Hemet News photos

Eddie George/Hemet News video
Krys Maiden – Facebook Live-Stream

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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