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TALK OF THE SOUND EXCLUSIVE: ATF/FBI Files on Union Avenue Car Explosion in New Rochelle

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TALK OF THE SOUND EXCLUSIVE: ATF/FBI Files on Union Avenue Car Explosion in New Rochelle

November 30, 2010 - 15:04

Car Bomb in New Rochelle - 36.jpgTalk of the Sound was first on the scene last April 19th when an explosion rocked a West End neighborhood in what was initially considered by many in the press and the public to have been car bomb detonated on Union Avenue in New Rochelle. Police called the explosion an accident and dismissed concerns of a car bomb or any connection to organized crime. Police stated that there were no known prior threats against the car owner.

At a press conference the following day, police said they believed the explosion was caused by an air-fuel mixture being ignited when Francesco Perri, of Eastchester, the owner of the vehicle, lit a cigarette. A melted red plastic gasoline container was found at the scene which smelled like gasoline. The NRPD declined to comment further pending results of an analysis by the ATF Laboratory in Ammendale, MD. That analysis has since been completed and largely confirms the preliminary conclusions.

Talk of the Sound has obtained the results of that analysis along with the rest of the file created by the ATF and FBI. They are being released now because we only got them last week. It took some time to complete the analysis of the "arson items" as they are called in the report. Over the summer Talk of the Sound submitted a Freedom of Information Act request which was initially "lost". The request resubmitted in October and the request granted, in part on November 10th.

FOIL: ATF-FBI Files on Union Avenue Car Explosion (PDF)

Some of the highlights from the files:

  • NRFD told investigators when they arrived they found the car to be vacant and fully engulfed in flames. Firefighters noticed the roof of the car bent upwards and the front doors and the tailgate bent outwards. The front windshield was found to be approximately twenty feet in front of the vehicle. Firefighters then extinguished the fire.
  • At the scene, investigators recovered from the cargo area of the vehicle what appeared to be a red gas tank and several pounds of fertilizer and grass seed.
  • At the hospital, Perri told investigators that the only tools he would keep inside the car were assorted loose hand tools, that he had never been a welder norstored any flammable canisters in his vehicle and denied having any aerosol type cans in the vehicle.
  • Perri told investigators of an ongoing dispute with another member of the Lydia Social Club, that there has been a series of incidents between the two men including Perri scratching the other man's car using a key and a physical altercation involving a punch to the face. The dispute appears to have originated after one man spilled coffee on the other. News reports state that Perri was arrested for they "keying" incident.
  • The name of the other man is redacted but in what appears to have been an error the investigator's raw notes identify "Erico" as the person with whom Perri was having the ongoing dispute.
  • Perri told investigators that "Erico" was not present with him at the Lydia Social Club that day.
  • Perri told investigators that he was holding an unlit cigarette in his left hand when he turned the key in the ignition with his right hand. At that approximate time he felt and heard an explosion occur from somewhere behind him in the vehicle and was immediately enveloped in tremendous heat and pressure.
  • Perri told investigators that he kept a 5 gallon contained of gasoline in his vehicle but that the cap was always secured to prevent it from spilling in the cargo area.
  • Perri told investigators that he did not recall there being any grass seed in the vehicle.

Key ATF Lab Findings

  • No evidence of an improvised explosive device was found.
  • Traces of gasoline, an ignitable liquid, on 7 of the 17 exhibits submitted, and traces of 2-butoxyethanol, an ignitable liquid, on one exhibit. 2-butoxyethanol is also known as Butyl Cellosolve® and is found in some paint and varnish removers, some cleaning solutions, and some solvents.
  • Traces of non-explosive, non-incendiary material that was visually and chemically consistent with charcoal rods on one exhibit and fertilizer in another.
  • Damaged, rusted remains ofthree metal spray/aerosol cans. The cans were missing their nozzles and were empty.

Talk of the Sound readers certainly know more about this incident than is contained in the files. For those who might know more, please review the files and help fill in the blanks. A few questions Talk of the Sound would like answered are:

  • Who is "Erico"?
  • One eyewitness source told Talk of the Sound that all of the doors to the vehicle were closed. As this would mean it would have meant that after pulling Perri from a car that had just exploded in a massive blast felt several blocks away and was engulfed in flames someone would have taken the trouble to return to the vehicle and shut the car door.
  • A key piece of information is redacted -- in a second interview at Perri's home, Perri's son accompanies investigators outside the home and tells them something about the father. Talk of the Sound would very much like to know what that was that he said.
  • What else did we miss?