The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department arrested one man after a suspected bomb threat Monday evening at a retail center at the corner of South Schulte Road and International Parkway.

Following investigation of the incident the department found that the man did not have a pipe bomb as a witness initially reported but was in possession of an automobile air-bag inflation device.

The department’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team investigated the scene, including the suspect’s car, after a witness called Tracy Police to report the man, and Tracy Police transferred the call to the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s Department public information officer Sandra Mendez said at the scene on Monday that deputies on patrol in Mountain House responded to the initial call from the Valero station. The Tracy Police dispatch log shows a call for an assist on Schulte Road at 5:43 p.m. Mendez said the deputies were on the scene within two or three minutes.

“As our deputies were driving in, they came across a guy holding what looked like a pipe bomb, so they took him down and detained him,” she said, noting that he surrendered without further incident after the deputies held him at gunpoint. “They closed everything down and evacuated the nearby stores and they ended up searching his car.”

Mendez said that the deputies called in the department’s EOD team to take possession of the device, adding that when deputies checked out the man’s car, they found another device that also looked like it could be an explosive.

The EOD team, using the Icor MK3 Caliber explosive recovery robot, reportedly found two metal cylindrical automobile air-bag inflators, removed from disassembled air bag units, in the car. The robot includes a series of cameras, including X-ray and thermal imaging cameras, that can help determine if a device is an actual explosive.

“They have to examine it first. They have to do pictures and a type of X-ray to make sure it’s not actually hot, meaning that it won’t go off right away. And then they put it in a secure box and then they move it very carefully where they can transport it to another area and detonate it in a safe place,” Mendez said.

In a followup statement on Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department noted that air bag inflation devices, which release a large amount of hot gas in a fraction of a second, are dangerous and capable of causing injury if deployed outside of their intended use. The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration describes the deployment of an air bag inflator as the ignition of a propellant, sparked by an electronic trigger. Some models of air bag inflator have been recalled after being blamed for fatalities.

Sheriff’s Department public information officer Nick Goucher explained on Tuesday that, contrary to initial reports, the man did not call police himself and did not claim to have a bomb. The original call reportedly came from a witness who called Tracy Police, and Tracy Police transferred the call, along with information from the witness, to the Sheriff’s Department.

The 28-year-old man was booked into San Joaquin County Jail on a misdemeanor charge of being drunk and disorderly.

• Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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