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Rossmoor Acid Bombs Ignite Debate

As authorities search for the culprits who placed acid bombs in a local family's yard, residents bristle at suggestions that the incident could have been racially motivated.

Residents in Rossmoor are torn over whether one of their own was the victim of a prank or a hate crime this month.

Investigators are still searching for the culprit behind the acid bombs left on a Rossmoor woman’s lawn and driveway earlier this month. Even as authorities continue to investigate, the incident has ignited a debate in the community about whether it is fair to consider the incident a potential hate crime.

On Dec. 2, a Rossmoor woman called law enforcement shortly after 7 a.m. to report she had found the acid bombs – small explosives made from household chemicals -- near the driveway of her residence the 3000 block of Mainway Drive. The Orange County Human Relations, a nonprofit devoted to eradicating hate crime in Orange County, announced that it was considering the possibility that the incident was a hate crime because the victim is an African-American who felt the incident may have been racially motivated.

On Dec. 16, the Rossmoor Homeowners Association sent out an email to its members responding to the allegations.

“While this matter is still under investigation, any inference that Rossmoor is not a welcoming community to all ethnic and racial groups is simply wrong,” said RHA president Gary Stewart in the letter. “It should go without saying that Rossmoor is a diverse community, attracting all kinds of people who value its quality of life.”

The letter also criticized the response of the Rossmoor Predator Management team, which -- along with alerting its newsletter readers that the incident had taken place -- sent out an email to members of the media indicating that some deputies were investigating “the matter as a possible hate crime due to the ethnicity of this family.”

“Unlike some others who were eager to talk to the media about the incident,” Stewart wrote,” the RHA believed the best course was to let law enforcement professionals do their jobs and to not go around shooting from the hip with unverified information.”

Click the 1st pdf below the photo to read the full letter.

The Orange County Human Relations commission believed it was a hate crime, and the Rossmoor Predator Management Team was not out of line to report that, said Dave Lara, the team’s founder.

“We have not engaged in criticizing the RHA,” Lara wrote in the letter.” “Rather, we submitted a request to the RHA as an agenda item to discuss issuing a reward for the Rossmoor Acid Bomber.  We also asked the RHA as a community representative, to contact the victim and discuss what assistance could be offered.”

“I think obviously the homeowners association is very sensitive, and they want to put Rossmoor in the good light,” Lara said. “There’s no feud. They’re criticizing us. That’s OK.”

After the mass email from the association, the Predator Management Team asked the home owners association to send out its response to the criticism.

The association declined, and the Lara’s put their letter on the Rossmoor Predator Management Team’s home page.

Click the second pdf below the photo to read the Lara’s response letter.

Lara said that he and his wife decided they don’t want to spend time arguing whether it’s a hate crime or not. He said they will wait for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to catch a suspect, and they want to help anyway they can.  

However, he added, “We believe, along with Orange County Human Relations, that obviously there are hate crimes in Orange County, and people don't want to address it.”

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Jim Amormino said there was still no evidence that bombs were a hate crime.

Deputies continue to look for finger prints and interview neighbors “but they haven’t come up with a lot,” he said.

On Dec. 2, a Rossmoor woman called law enforcement shortly after 7 a.m. to report she had found the acid bombs – small explosives made from household chemicals -- near the driveway of her residence the 3000 block of Mainway Drive.

Amormino said one of the items exploded while the woman was on the phone with authorities. When authorities arrived, the other items on the property had not exploded, and they were later disabled by a bomb squad.

According to Amormino, acid bombs are “easily made and fairly common, but extremely dangerous.”

“We take it very seriously,” Amormino said, adding that many times “it’s youngsters” who make them because the explosion is visually impressive.

One of the bombs was found in a tree in a park across the street from the victim's home, Amormino said. The devices may have been part of a prank, he said.

“We don’t have any suspects,” Amormino added.

Amormino said they checked local security camera footage on nearby homes, but the cameras didn’t record any evidence– mostly, he said because the cameras weren’t pointing at the home at the time of the incident.

"Our investigation is ongoing and it will really depend on the outcome of the investigation if we have something pertinent (to announce).” Amormino said. “We’re doing the same things we do always … seeking witnesses, interviewing witnesses, looking at any potential leads or evidence, all the normal investigatory techniques.”

Panglonymous December 23, 2012 at 04:39 AM
“The acid bombs are not an unusual type or bomb we see,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Gil. “The word 'bomb' is menacing, but these are easily made in 2-liter soda bottles.” However, the bombs can be dangerous, warned Gil. “They have the power of a firecracker or a small explosive,” he said.
Carmelcat December 23, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Thanks RHA, for doing the sane and decent actions ... without hysteria and unfound speculation. Gary Stewart's letter answered what I need to know as a resident... that the right people are doing their jobs well.
Susan Fageaux December 23, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Sad:(
David & Rebecca Lara December 24, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Dear RHA Board Member, We requested that the RHA issue a reward when our Rossmoor Neighbor received 4 bombs loaded with Drano. This acid could have easily burned, blinded, etc. her or her daughter. We also requested that since a board member sent us an email stating prior knowledge to acid bombs, that we (Rossmoor Residents) be made aware so that we could alert the community, not just board members on the RHA. We also requested that he notify the Orange County Sheriff Department so investigations could be initiated regarding the acid bombs. In retaliation, we (RHA Members) were bashed by our own Homeowner's Association. Does this sound like right people doing their jobs well?
David & Rebecca Lara December 24, 2012 at 03:28 PM
From David Lara, RPMT: A few minutes after the incident, the RPMT immediately notified, via email, residents (1500) of the potential danger of acid bombs found on Mainway. A empty bottle was found at Rush Park with no acid in it (EMPTY). The purpose of this email was to have residents search their own yards for possible acid bombs. In addition, Mainway was closed off by the Sheriff Department and being Sunday morning, we felt it imperative that residents (families with children) should know on their way to Calvary Church Services at Rush Park. A better question is when did the RHA notify Rossmoor Neighbors of this potential danger in its community? As to hysteria, this African American Family was harassed days before the acid bombs. No other family on Mainway was provided acid bombs. Consistently, RPMT has notified Rossmoor Neighbors when crimes have occurred in their neighborhood. We have tried to notify the RHA only to discover that they have an answering machine which is only checked once a week. The RPMT receives 30 - 40 emails/phone calls daily concerning activity in Rossmoor. RPMT's goal along with the RHA is to make Rossmoor a safe place for ALL families, children and pets.
Piet Westerbeek lll December 25, 2012 at 08:17 PM
totally confused about the mandate of the RPMT.
David & Rebecca Lara December 25, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Please allow us to explain our purpose: We were founded by 4 neighbors to address the imprinted coyote issue in Rossmoor. After handling the coyote issue, we formed a dog squad to find and return lost dogs to their owners. Due to our efforts, we had an email list of approximately 1,000 people at that time. When burglaries began to increase, our members began requesting more information including crime alerts. Members notify us when crime occurs and we, in turn, notify our membership. Everyone felt it was important to know if their street was being victimized by burglaries. We support the Orange County Sheriff Department with publication of news bulletins, seminars, etc. Neighbors have also contacted us regarding personal issues, and we have helped them with researching their problems, letter writing, etc. We are 1500+ neighbors who network to make our communities (including Los Al) a safe place to live for families, kids and pets. Our membership is free and we do not have any paid advertisers. We can be reached at 562 253-2330 at all times. Our newsletter and website are available to our members for community concerns, volunteer drives, garage sales, etc. We have also been members of the RHA for over 30 years and have also assisted them as RHA members as well. We are reachable via email at REBTRAVIS@AOL.COM and by phone at 562 253-2330.
Sachi M December 27, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Well I think Rossmoor is VERY lucky to have such hard working citizens as Rebecca and Dave Lara who really care about the community, & who work hand in hand with the residents of Rossmoor & Law Enforcement. I for one appreciate all their efforts in keeping us all SAFE.
Piet Westerbeek lll December 28, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Channeling this energy through the established organizations such as the RHA and RCSD would be a win-win.
David & Rebecca Lara December 28, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Dear Piet, when asked to be a block captain for our own block, I was denied person in charge of the Neighborhood Watch. Recently, we requested a reward for the Rossmoor Acid Bomber(s), we received a publicized notice from the RHA with invalid remarks about RPMT. We will work with anybody or any organization to promote the safety and welfare of our communities.

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