Teen maimed by improvised fireworks


By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

The “4th of July” fireworks season wasn’t all fun and games this year in West Sacramento.

“On July 7, a 19-year old man blew off his hand – literally blew it off – as a result of the detonation of an improvised fireworks device,” said Lieutenant Tod Sockman of the West Sacramento Police Department.

“Basically, he made a homemade firework and took it out of his backpack,” Sockman told the News-Ledger. “When he lit it and raised it over his head, it blew his hand off.”

The victim was Alexander Baker. The incident occurred at about 3 p.m. on the 2200-block of Rice Avenue, said Sockman. Two other people were on scene but “at a distance” when it blew. Sockman added that police weren’t sure about the device’s origin:

“He claimed to have found it, but we don’t know. He went to UC Davis Medical Center for treatment. I know that he’s had surgery, and he lost his hand up to his forearm.”

Sockman said investigators were still determining what the device was made from, but that it wasn’t a “safe and sane” type of legal fireworks.

Three seasons ago, the City of West Sacramento legalized “safe and sane” fireworks. Charities were selected by lottery to sell these fireworks by lottery, and they could legally be set off this year from noon on July 28 through noon on July 6.

With fireworks season comes complaints from local residents about neighbors using illegal styles of fireworks – powerful exploding types, or aerial fireworks. The News-Ledger observed dozens of such complaints in police call logs early this month.

But Sockman says that – at least judging by calls to police – the problem of illegal fireworks is not rising year-by-year.

“Between June 28 and July 4, we tracked the calls for service (due misuse of fireworks) in 2012 and 2013,” said Sockman. “Last year, we had 88 calls for service related to fireworks. It was not necessarily for illegal fireworks. Sometimes, people are just saying, ‘hey, people are shooting off fireworks.’”

“We had 33 calls this year,” he added.  Peak time for the complaints went from about 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. during those days, said Sockman. But he noted that the number of complaints had dropped by over half from the previous year.

“On the Fourth of July, we actually assigned two officers to fireworks patrol,” he added.

No one was ever actually cited or arrested this year. People frequently “light them off and run,” so they’re gone when officers arrive, said Sockman.

So what should you do next year, if you believe someone is using fireworks illegally?

“Call us,” said Sockman. “The fact that we assigned two officers to handle this shows the importance. We appreciate those calls because we want to get the illegal fireworks off the street.”


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