In these times of mass shootings, mysterious explosions and bombs being sent to public officials, this is sobering: A man was arrested at his Tustin area condo on Wednesday for possessing fireworks, explosive devices and “a large amount” of bomb-making materials, authorities say.
Kevin Sean Welch, 38, was being held in Orange County Jail on $1 million bail after being booked and charged with felony possession of an explosive device near a private residence, possession of materials with intent to explode, misdemeanor possession of fireworks without a permit and misdemeanor sale of illegal fireworks.
Welch is expected to be arraigned today at Central Jail Court in Santa Ana.
Deputies were called to a condominium at 12720 Newport Avenue in unincorporated Tustin just before 9 a.m. Wednesday when a neighbor heard a loud explosion and a piece of shrapnel landed in his backyard, according to Orange County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Manager Carrie Braun.
Responding deputies went to an adjoining condominium, made contact with Welch and noticed pieces of a terra-cotta chiminea–an outdoor fireplace–in his backyard, Braun says.
“Welch initially admitted to an accidental explosion resulting from an aerated can placed in the burning chiminea,” reads Braun’s release, which notes no one else was at the residence at the time and no one was injured in the explosion.
During their investigation, deputies saw what appeared to be fireworks and explosive devices in plain sight, according to Braun, who adds the OCSD Hazardous Devices Squad was called, the condo and four adjoining units were evacuated, surrounding residents were requested to shelter-in-place, and Newport Avenue was closed from Wass Street to Warren Avenue.
Once a search warrant was obtained, the bomb unit went to work and “identified a completed pipe bomb, additional partially completed pipe bombs, illegal fireworks and a large amount of precursor materials used to make explosive devices,” the spokeswoman says.
The Orange County Fire Authority Hazmat Team, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Crime Lab and the Tustin Police Department assisted during the incident, Braun notes.
Besides being arrested for what was seized at his condo, Welch “may be connected at least two explosions in the Tustin area in the last few weeks,” according to Braun, whose department has launched a full investigation.
Anyone with helpful information is asked to contact OCSD North Investigations at 714.647.7065.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.