LAPORTE — A 16-year-old who brought an explosive device to a northern Indiana county fair can’t be tried as an adult because of state law, a prosecutor said.
“We looked at it, we wanted to; we felt it was a heinous crime but because it’s only possession (we can’t waive them to adult court),” LaPorte County Prosecutor Robert Szilagyi said this week. “If they had been trying to set it off, then we might have had a chance, but because they were just carrying it around and they don’t have any criminal history, there’s nothing we can do.”
If the teen had been carrying a gun in his backpack instead of a bomb, he could have been waived to adult court, Szilagyi told The LaPorte County Herald-Argus.
The teenager was arrested July 1 after police say took a homemade “sparkler bomb” in a backpack to the LaPorte County Fair, about 25 miles west of South Bend. The 16-year-old told sheriff’s deputies they had only intended to scare people.
A 26-year-old man in Renton, Wash., was critically injured on July 4 when he detonated a bomb made of 50 sparklers wrapped together in a bundle. Some debris was found as far away as 125 feet.
The teens told police they didn’t think anyone would be hurt had they been able to set off the sparkler bomb near the carnival rides. Authorities didn’t respond to phone calls from The Associated Press on Thursday seeking to find out how many sparklers were in the device.
When the 16-year-old was arrested at the fair, another teen tried to intervene but deputies subdued him with pepper spray and arrested him. Authorities do not believe he was involved in the plan. The teen who allegedly constructed the device was arrested the following day.
Szilagyi asked people to contact their state legislators and urge them to amend the law so that juveniles can be waived to adult court if they face explosives charges.
“We have to go through the juvenile system,” he said. “We took our time and tried to figure out what we can do with it. It’s really kind of strange.”