Agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are still trying to determine why two Marines brought nonlethal explosive devices from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms to Redondo Beach, authorities said.
Lance Cpl. Devin Gajewski, 22, and Pvt. Thomas Bazer, 20, were detained by members of the Redondo Beach Police Department on Thursday evening. Officers found the two standing outside a white Dodge Ram pickup truck parked in the lot in front of Living Spaces in North Redondo Beach. Inside the pickup were 10 ground burst munitions simulators—training devices that "simulate artillery or mortars coming down on Marines … to add more realism to the training that we do here," said Public Affairs Officer Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler.
"Essentially, it's like a really big firecracker" that produces a whistling noise and a loud bang, Mannweiler said. "It's pretty loud, and your ears ring a little bit. It's not something you want to be holding when it goes off."
According to Mannweiler, another Marine told Marine Corps authorities that the two men had ground burst munitions simulators with them. The Corps notified Redondo Police about the Marines and the training devices, and told officers where to find them.
At the same time, Marine Corps personnel contacted the two Marines and told them to stay put.
"They were very cooperative in the beginning," said Redondo Police Capt. Jeff Hink. He later added, "As the situation unfolded, (the Marines) appeared to be a little remorseful and surprised at what's happening."
Redondo Police set up a blast perimeter, evacuated Target and other nearby retailers in the South Bay Marketplace, and called the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Bomb Squad, which used a robot to investigate the devices. The LASD took possession of them.
Mannweiler said NCIS is still trying to determine where the training devices came from.
"How they got them? We don't know," he said. "Needless to say, they weren't supposed to have them, so we're still trying to track that down."
Investigators are also trying to figure out why the Marines had them.
"Based on the type of devices, we don't believe that they were going to inflict any harm on someone or property in Redondo Beach or elsewhere," Hink said.
Gajewski, a tank crewman, and Bazer, a field radio operator, are members of the First Marine Division stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The pair were on leave for a three-day weekend, Mannweiler said. He was not aware if they had any prior disciplinary issues.
"They're young people," Hink said. "I don't think they realized the sensitivity of what happened until after it happened."
The two Marines are not in custody and charges have not been filed; however, "Marine authorities at Twentynine Palms are taking this incident seriously and continue to support NCIS's investigation," Mannweiler said.