Possible flashlight bomb sparks evacuations in Phoenix neighborhood

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix woman and her neighbors got the scare of their lives late Wednesday night when she found a flashlight similar to the ones that somebody turned into bombs and planted in three separate locations this month.

It happened shortly after 10 p.m. in the neighborhood of 23rd and Turney avenues, which is northwest of 19th Avenue and Indian School Road.

The woman went out to her car and spotted the flashlight in the back seat. It was a yellow, plastic 6-volt handheld flashlight, just like the ones police have been warning residents about -- rigged to explode when turned on.

The woman had not seen the flashlight before and knew that it was not hers. A neighbor threw the flashlight into a grassy area before calling the police.

Investigators evacuated between 30 and 40 people from nearby homes as a precaution.

When the bomb squad X-rayed the device, they discovered that it was simply a plain old flashlight.

While this flashlight turned out to be harmless, police said the woman and her neighbor did exactly the right thing by calling them.

"You can't tell from the outside which are fake, which are real, which is a real flashlight, which is something that has been altered to hurt or damage people," Lt. Chris Moore of the Phoenix Police Department said.

Five people have been injured in three separate flashlight-bomb incidents.

The first two happened on opposite sides of Glendale on May 13 and 14. The third happened at a Salvation Army distribution center in Phoenix on May 24.

At this point, investigators have no idea who is behind the explosions.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for three recent incidents involving flashlight bombs.

"Our immediate concern is that of public safety," said Thomas Atteberry, special agent in charge of the ATF's Phoenix Field Division. "If anyone discovers a flashlight that does not belong to them or appears out of place, no matter the color or shape, do not attempt to touch or manipulate the flashlight in any way."

Anyone who sees a suspicious flashlight or has information about who may be planting these explosive devices is asked to call local police or the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB.