April 25 (UPI) — A U.S. Navy sailor on Tuesday was accused of stealing 20 hand grenades from the USS Pinckney in San Diego and leaving most of them on the side of the road.
Aaron Booker — a 31-year-old gunner’s mate second class from Waukegan, Ill. — faces 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for possession of stolen explosives.
Booker caught the attention of authorities on April 20, when an off-duty law enforcement officer found a military-issued backpack against a guardrail on Interstate 15 in northwest Arizona. When the officer looked inside, he found 18 grenades and a name tag that said, “GM2 BOOKER.”
Booker was at his post in Great Lakes, Ill., when the backpack was found, and he was placed under arrest by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Prosecutors allege that Booker, who was stationed in San Diego as a member of the USS Pinckney’s Weapons Department between November 2016 and January 2017, took the grenades from a storage crate during that time. It’s not clear how the backpack ended up on Interstate 15 in Arizona, but Booker admitted to taking that route when he was transferred to his new post in Illinois during early March.
“A backpack full of grenades on the side of the road is obviously extremely dangerous and could have had resulted in injuries or death,” U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman said in a statement. “The theft of explosives is a very serious offense, particularly if it is carried out by an insider with access to military weapons and secrets.”
Booker will likely face charges in San Diego.
Authorities are still looking for the missing two grenades.