BUHL • A police officer spotted a Buhl man with an outstanding warrant, but when he went to make an arrest, the suspect first tried to stab him with a syringe and then was arrested on charges of possessing a mortar and a device to launch it, police say.
Robert Elkin, 41, was arraigned Monday in Twin Falls County court on charges of unlawful possession of a bomb or destructive device, possession of a controlled substance, assault, possession of paraphernalia and destruction of evidence.
About 9:45 a.m. Saturday, July 20, police Sgt. Kevin Hanners was patrolling near Buhl Storage, 801 Barsness Ave.
Hanners gave this account in an interview with the Times-News and in his police report:
While working as the only Buhl officer on patrol, Hanners spotted Elkin and another man rummaging in a pickup truck parked beside the north fence of the storage units. Two other men were also present.
Hanners knew Elkin had an active arrest warrant, so he pulled his patrol car into the storage units. As he did, Elkin began to walk away, but Elkin stopped when Hanners informed him of the warrant.
Hanners handcuffed Elkin and started to walk him to his patrol car. After about 25 feet, Elkin began to struggle and pulled his hands toward his right front pants pocket.He pulled out a syringe, removed its safety cap and bent his wrist toward Hanners, pointing the needle at him.
“There was a struggle over it, then he dropped it,” Hanners said. “As far as I could tell, there wasn’t anything in it.”
Elkin used his thumb to break off the needle tip, then dropped it on the ground. Hanners then pushed Elkin against the trunk of his car.
“This encounter spanned the distance of 25 to 30 feet,” Hanners wrote. “During this time I had a well-founded fear that Rob was trying to stab me with the needle.”
As Hanners pinned Elkin against his car, Elkins said: “Hanners, just relax, it ain’t nothing. Just treat me with some respect and dignity.”
Elkin told Hanners he believed the needle was clean but had planned to use it for illegal drugs.
Hanners called Cpl.Jeremy Engbaum and his drug-sniffing dog to the scene. Engbaum and the K-9, Britt, arrived, and the dog indicated that drugs were in the truck. At that point,the two officers began searching.
“You’ve got a bomb here,” Engbaum told Hanners, holding up a metal pipe.
One end of the pipe was unscrewed, and black powder residue was inside. If both ends had been closed, the situation would have been more dangerous, Hanners said.
The officers called the Twin Falls bomb squad and had the people who were with Elkin move away from the truck.
Elkin overheard the call to the bomb squad and said, “There ain’t no bomb in that truck.”
After moving his patrol car, Hanners asked Elkin about the device.
“I made it to be launched from an air cannon,” Elkin told Hanners. “It goes up in the air and is designed to come down and blow up.”
A deputy took Elkin to the Twin Falls County Jail, and bomb squad members Sgt. Ryan Howe and Officer Matt Triner arrived and determined that the pipe was a homemade mortar and had been used before.
Then they found launching devices for the mortar in Elkin’s truck bed.
The spring-loaded pipe was made with a gun primer. When it hit the ground, the primer would fire, setting off the powder in the pipe.
“Sgt. Howe stated that if Rob had been able to pack enough powder inside the pipe, it would create a large amount of shrapnel,” Hanners wrote.
The launching devices were two propane tanks modified to launch the mortar. Howe vented the propane tank that still contained air.
Hanners also reported finding a pipe with methamphetamine residue.
Buhl Police Chief Eric Foster said police don’t believe Elkin had any terrorist intent by having the devices.
Hanners said he wasn’t able to learn while interviewing Elkin why he had the devices, other than for personal enjoyment.
Hanners called the find surprising. While other Buhl officers have found explosive devices before, he said this was his first.