'Crude' bombs explode at Palo Alto home

Police believe the acid bombs were a juvenile prank; the home was previously targeted

Two chemical bombs exploding in front of a Palo Alto home on the 700 block of De Soto Drive woke residents at 12:57 a.m. Friday (Dec. 31) morning.

The blast was heard a block away, but did not cause damage to the home or any persons. The acid might have burned people's skin if contact was made, Palo Alto police Lt. Sandra Brown said.

Police determined the bombs were most likely a juvenile prank and were crudely made. The targeted family has had their house egged and toilet papered in the past. Two young adults about ages 19 or 20 live there, she said.

Residents who heard the explosions, including the occupants of the targeted home, heard two loud bangs back to back, but did not call police.

At 7:15 a.m., the home's occupants looked outside and saw three water bottles in the front yard. Two had exploded and liquid was draining onto the lawn, which was slightly singed; a third unexploded bottle lay in the walkway to the front door, Brown said. The residents decided to call police at 12:22 p.m.

The Palo Alto Fire Department tested the liquid and found it to be an acid. A ball of aluminum about the size of a quarter had been placed in each bottle and turned black, perhaps as part of the chemical reaction. Brown said the balls were intact and lay outside the exploded bottles on the grass.

Police called the Santa Clara County bomb squad, which provided instructions for neutralizing the acid.

The bottles were collected; police will check for fingerprints or DNA and could retain the bottles for comparison or as evidence, she said.


Posted by glad they called the police, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 1, 2011 at 11:53 am

Bombing someone's house is closer to domestic terrorism than a "juvenile prank".

Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I wonder if the pranksters will post a vid of the incident on Youtube.

Web Link

Youtube seems to be full of "Here it goes, WOW!" videos.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I am so pleased that no one was hurt from this.

However, this goes beyond a juvenile prank. Even toilet paper and egging a home should be considered malicious damage and the culprits dealt with in a serious manner, but this is considerably worse.

Where do kids get the idea that causing malicious damage, vandalism and makeshift bombs is acceptable? Is it from their parents or is it from tv, movies, video games, etc?

Any kids found causing malicious damage to homes, vandalism, or more serious crimes must be dealt with by the police and the parents made to pay for cleanup and the kids put on some type of probation. What may start off as a harmless prank, can lead to something a lot more serious. Forcing parents to actually parent their kids and be responsible for them is a good way to prevent similar episodes in the future.

Parents and juveniles, take note. And, yes I am a parent myself.

Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Resident, I agree. I'm also a parent. This does not sound like a prank to me. There was alcohol, driving, a pick up truck, dangerous chemicals, explosions, other people's property and safety. I hope the perpetrators are discovered and that their names will be made public. I would not want my kids anywhere near these people.

Posted by DMW, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:36 pm


How do you know alcohol, driving, and a pickup truck were involved?
I find these statements to be inflammatory and not based upon any evidence available to the public.

Posted by glad they called the police, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm

The Mercury-News article mentions white pickup truck and beer bottles: Web Link

Why is this inflammatory? Are pickup truck drivers a protected group or something?

Posted by what, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 1, 2011 at 3:08 pm


I don't think you can really call people out for making inflammatory comments if the story is about people placing acid bombs in somebody's yard.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Seems the inflammatory accusation is obvious founded given your hyperbole. The original article didn't reference beer, puick up, etc...

About that beer:
"About 15 minutes later, Jack said he looked out a window and saw a white pickup truck drive away. He found two broken beer bottles in the street in front of his home Friday and a third broken bottle in one of his trash bins."

Wow, (allegded) kids that make an acid bomb throw a third of their empties into bins? Something doesn't add up.

Have to think this, along with so many issues that are commented on here, has much to be discovered and shared before anyone can make educated comments.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 1, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Acid? I would have bet the liquid was alkaline.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by martin, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

This is criminal behavior, not a prank.
Unfortuately, "pranks" such as t p-ing a house or egg throwing are consider juvenile fun by some parents. Some young teens even like to have their house tp'd because it means they get attention. Turning a blind eye to such pranks just encourages vandalism to escalate. Parents should not condone any level of "fun' vandalism.

I doubt that the youths responsible for this are illiterate. Rather, I would think that they know better, but just don't care. When they are caught, they deserve imprisonment.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Why is this family continually chosen as a target?

Posted by terrorism, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Repeatedly targeting a family with criminal attacks is terrorism. I hope the cops treat it as such.

Posted by Gordon, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 2, 2011 at 5:35 pm

My experience is that the kids who do these mean-spirited pranks, in Palo Alto, are not blue-collar types. They are trust fund babies, from divorced families. Both boys and girls can be involved (especially with TP and egging and other 'messy' things); things that go 'bang' are usually boys, although they might have similar brat girls with them, totally impressed.

One thing is for sure: None of these kids will get prosecuted in any serious way. If caught, their parents will hire professional psychologists and lawyers to explain it all away.

It is the Palo Alto way. Relax, and have a happy new year.

I have watched this script for several decades in Palo Alto.

Posted by Observer, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2011 at 7:07 am

DMW, I read the paper.
Parent, If you know the family that includes the perpetrators, I hope you've shared what information you have with the police. If the family you refer to was the target, what does being the target of such an attack have to do with academics?

Posted by agree, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 3, 2011 at 8:56 am

I agree with Observer. If anyone knows or suspects who did this, then please call the police. Snitching on a violent criminal is not a sin. Bombing someone's home is violence.

Posted by Student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 3, 2011 at 7:57 pm

While I understand the potential for personal injury and property damage because of this prank I think it is important that we not overreact. This was by all means dangerous and irresponsible of the perpetrators, who should be punished, but that does not mean that all of these "acid bombs" or devices like them are weapons of terrorism. Ever since 9/11 there has been a shift towards the outlawing anything that goes bang, especially if it can be called a bomb. Personally, I think that this had the effect of stifling experimentation, especially among the young. If done in a responsible way (and I stress responsible) experimenting with moderately dangerous reactions can spur interest in the sciences. As a young male and an aspiring chemist I can say one of the reasons I became interested in the subject was because of the potential for small scale explosions and other "interesting" reactions. This has even been the impetus for some of my own self-motivated research. While I have not made devices like the ones described in the article, I have achieved similar results with other reactions (mind you in the safety and privacy of my own backyard). The idea that those could be called "bombings" seems a bit extreme to me.

Posted by terrorism, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Student - playing with explosives in your bedroom is one thing. Targeting someone else's house is very different, especially with repeated attacks. Are you claiming that the residents bombed their own house?

Posted by Vafer, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 3, 2011 at 8:12 pm

not enough information in the article. It could be as stupid as mountain dew (acid like coca cola) with some Mentos, and using aluminum as a stopper to build pressure in the bottles. that wouldn't explain the singed grass though the descriptions in the are ticle are lacking.

that said, these acts are definitely reprehensible and should be pursued as far as reasonably possible.

Posted by Student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 3, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Not at all, and I thought I made that very clear, "While I understand the potential for personal injury and property damage because of this prank I think it is important that we not overreact. This was by all means dangerous and irresponsible of the perpetrators, who should be punished." I understand that the perp(s) targeted someone else, that the act of using a device like this against anyone is wrong, and that they should be punished. My point is merely that we shouldn't take this as a mandate further strengthen legislation against experimenting in ones own backyard (not bedroom, that would be a fire hazard) as this sort of event is wont to do. We need to make a distinction between the inappropriate use of (and I understand the irony in this term) improvised explosive devices and appropriate, supervised use for education and nurturing the scientific tendencies of young people.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 4, 2011 at 3:21 am

"domestic terrorism", "malicious damage", "vandalism", "dangerous chemicals", "criminal acts", "attack", "mean-spirited trust fund babies", "violent criminal", "bombing", "deserve imprisonment" -- such are the scorching assessments from a half-dozen posters on this story.

Yet on recent items "Palo Alto woman robbed in front of her home", "Man robbed at San Antonio Road Caltrain station", "Another driveway armed robbery Thursday night", "Man on cell phone assaulted, robbed in Palo Alto", where is your vilification? All I saw was "it's time to turn the streetlights up again", "Maybe Caltrans can install some security cameras", "Makes me a little paranoid". (Perhaps there were more strident responses, now shown as "Post removed by PA Online staff".)

Maybe it's the way the news stories are written, or just that popping water bottles are something different from the routine robbery at gunpoint.

I just want "Student" to know that he's the first person here I completely agree with. The experimenting with explosives aspect is pretty tame. The prank aspect pushes it into irresponsibility, something that could harm innocent bystanders. But terrorism? Are any practical jokes acceptable anymore? Sadly no, we live in a different age. Just looking at somebody wrong is bullying or a hate crime or a shooting offense. I seriously doubt that any willful vandalism or injury was intended here. I'm much more bothered by the broken beer bottles in the street. Yeah, these guys were being jerks.

Aspiring chemist, keep up your research. And wear eye-protection like a race car driver wears a seatbelt or a skydiver wears a parachute.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2011 at 9:10 am


I would agree with you if this "prank" had taken place in a park, in front of their own home or even on school grounds. But, this took place on the front yard of a home that had already been targetted with toilet paper and eggs. It seems to me that there is an escalation of vindictiveness to this particular family. This makes it sound much more serious than future chemists experimenting as a hobby.

For whatever reason, this family is being targetted by vandals. Unless you are saying that the kids within this family are having fun at their own parents' expense, then this is malicious damage. There is never an excuse for kids to deliberately vandalize property.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 4, 2011 at 9:13 am


Entertaining post of yours and I completely agree. It's because we live in Palo Alto that there is overreaction.

This may have been a prank but not due to endearment, from what I hear.

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