What started out as a routine death investigation in Chicago’s North Side suburb of Streeterville turned into a potentially explosive situation Wednesday evening when the bomb squad was called for “a potentially volatile substance” in a condo. Apparently the unit was packed full of some unusually unstable explosives which took some careful handling to remove. Experts didn’t want to shake this stuff around getting it out.
It’s a bomb all right
According to police, “one of the dangerous chemicals they found inside a unit in this building was identified as lead azide, a potentially explosive material.” That’s putting it mildly. Officially, they aren’t saying much, but off the record, “multiple explosive devices were found. The apartment was a mess.” The bomb squad didn’t even want to go in there.
Residents say “the day was filled with stress and tension as investigators combed through the building Wednesday night.” They didn’t know just how close they came to being launched to the moon by a carpet shock. That is why “lines of police cars escorted a bomb squad trailer as it hauled away the hazardous materials.”
Police initially took a fairly routine call to check out a deceased person who had been discovered. Theodore Hilk, 31-years-old, was found around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. When police got there, they took a look around the scene where the body was located and quickly yelled for backup. “The FBI, a SWAT team, and the CPD bomb unit also came to the scene late Wednesday.”
Lead Azide was used heavily during the Vietnam War in detonators to initiate secondary explosives. The stuff is so touchy that it is usually handled and stored under water in insulated rubber containers. The substance is known to explode after fall of a mere 6 inches. It will also go off “in the presence of a static discharge of 7 millijoules.” Even tiny amounts undergo full detonation from a single flame or static electricity spark. The whole condo was one big bomb. That means a carpet shock in that apartment could blow the whole building sky high and leave a crater.
— Jermont Terry (@JermontTerry) March 25, 2021
Neighbors were “understandably worried” as a full three floors of the building were evacuated. “We didn’t know if there was something in the vents. So we turned off the vents in our house. We opened up the windows,” reports one tenant. “There was a lot of constant police communication through the building, telling us they’re conducting tests and everybody should stay put,” she relates. “The concern was: what was going on in that apartment really?” She was better off not knowing. The bomb squad was on tiptoes and making sure they were static free.
Now the neighbors are all playing armchair detective trying to figure out what Hilk was up to in there. One possibility is he was supplying local Chicagoland gangsters with explosive bullets and other nasty hardware bomb type devices.
Lead azide was used in six of the .22 caliber Devastator rounds fired by John Hinckley, Jr. in his assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan, March 30, 1981. The rounds used “lead azide centers with lacquer-sealed aluminum tips designed to explode upon impact.” It was probably one of those rounds which struck White House press secretary James Brady in the head and exploded. No matter what he was up to, you can bet once the bomb squad gives the condo the final all clear the investigation will be one really deep rabbit hole.