Prosecutors charge four teens in Westfield mailbox blasts

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Four teenagers face charges after a series of small explosions that destroyed mailboxes in Westfield.

According to Westfield Police, the four 18-year-olds were identified after an off-duty police chief in Sheridan noticed several men purchasing ingredients commonly used to make the explosives known as "overpressure devices" at a Wal-Mart. He notified Westfield police, who identified the suspects after reviewing security footage.

John R. Rogers, Grant J. Plummer and Zachary A. Loftalian of Westfield and Maxwell R. Jackson of Brownsburg face misdemeanor charges of using an overpressure device and criminal mischief. All four will appear in court Feb. 20.

A juvenile also has been questioned.

The explosives consist of two-liter plastic soda bottles filled with a household cleaner and aluminum foil.

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Inside Dwight Watkins' garage are the remnants of his mailbox, "Well I always heard that it was pretty serious to be messin' with a mailbox," he said. "that's federal stuff, ya know."

Watkins and at least four others in Westfield had their mailbox blown up, according to Westfield Police, who say that someone put together a " high pressure device" or a bottle bomb made with drain cleaner.

"Well I just thought it was kids with a baseball bat or something, knockin' it off," said Watkins. "I carried it into the garage and the Pepsi bottle rolled out of it and all of this black liquid came out of the inside.  Well I thought 'this is a little bit different.'"

There are plenty of examples online of how to make a bottle bomb, and one look in Watkins' garage shows the damage a bottle bomb can do.  And within two miles of Watkins' house, in Fishers, two more mailboxes met the same fate. 

One has already been removed by the owner, while the other sits on the post, metal torn at the seams, the back blown off and on the ground the dried up remnants of the chemicals used to make the explosion is the only evidence the suspects left behind.

The ingredients to make a bottle bomb are easy to find in most kitchens, however, police say mixing them together inside a bottle is illegal and also very dangerous. The chemical reaction can cause severe burns the scorched metal inside Watkins mailbox tells that side of the story.

And now, on his day off, Dwight Watkins will be out in the coldest temperatures of the year replacing his mailbox "I don't like the idea that people come by and destroy your stuff," he said. "And then the worst part it, for me, I got to stand out there in the cold with a drill and hammer working' on my mailbox, which I don't like doin.' I got enough homework to do without takin' care of vandalism."

The first offense for setting off a high-pressure device is a misdemeanor. The second offense is a felony.