NYPD Bomb Squad

Blog: What's the Big Idea?

NYPD Bomb Squad

The NYC Bomb Squad series of novels began with deep research within the real New York City Police Department Bomb Squad.

A Technical Consultant Par Excellence

NYPD Bomb Squad

My research began — as most research does — with nonfiction books and searches on the Internet. I sensed that wouldn’t be enough, but I had no personal contacts in the world of the NYPD.

One day around that time my wife and I were staying at the Connecticut house of some dear friends, Cynthia Bell and Paul Bucha. Cynthia is the daughter of a retired army general. Paul, the son of an army colonel, had attended and taught at West Point, and left the army as a captain. While in Vietnam, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor — our nation’s highest award for military valor. He subsequently became president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society — one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, so to speak, and a club, to hear him tell it, that no one voluntarily sets out to “join.” In his role as a genuine war hero, Paul did a lot of public speaking, almost all of it gratis.

That Sunday morning, Paul and I had a chance for a quiet talk in his kitchen over coffee, and he asked what I was working on. I told him I was deep into writing my third novel, The Dark Pool, and that I was thinking about next embarking upon a series of NYPD Bomb Squad thrillers.

“I just spoke in front of a group of Bomb Squad guys a couple of weeks ago,” Paul chimed in. “If you want to meet any of those guys, I can hook you up.”

NYPD Bomb SquadJump cut to that connection, who turned out to be Special Agent Bomb Technician Kevin Miles, then near retirement as the FBI’s most experienced bomb tech. Kevin gave me some technical advice, which enabled me to start writing. Most important — although it took a while — he introduced me to Lieutenant Mark Torre, the current NYPD Bomb Squad commander.

Mark had once consulted for Patricia Cornwell on a novel she wrote that touched upon his unit. With permission from on high, he agreed to be my technical consultant on the fictional Bomb Squad NYC series. We discuss plots when I’m only on the conceptual stage, and Mark eventually reviews every word of every book that I write in the series. (He also reviewed Dynamite: A Concise History of the NYPD Bomb Squad.)

In his vetting of these books, I’ve asked Mark to weigh in primarily on three things. First, to make sure that I do not inadvertently reveal any information that will endanger law enforcement personnel or the public. Second, to help me get all the technical aspects of Bomb Squad work correct: the equipment, the techniques, and the way a bomb technician thinks. Finally, to advise me on the general atmosphere of the squad and the police department, their procedures and the attitudes they have toward their work.

While I am grateful for Mark’s thoughtful counsel and meticulous review of these books, I hasten to add that he is not their author and they are in no way meant as romans à clefs. Although all of the situations are plausible, none of the characters are based upon any real-life person in particular. Also, as all novelists must, with Mark’s acquiescence I sometimes take liberties regarding police procedures and such.

As I note at the top of each novel: “This book isn’t factual. But you may find it true.” The emotional truth is my job. Mark helps me get the rest of it right.

NYPD Historical Timeline

May 7, 1867
Alfred Nobel receives first patent for the invention of dynamite

1883
Joseph Petrosino joins NYPD

April 1903
Italian Squad founded with Joseph Petrosino as its commander

October 27, 1904
First NYC subway opens

September 3, 1905
NY Daily Tribune runs headline: The Art of Throwing Dynamite Bombs

1906
First bomb placed on NYC subway

January 1908
Italian-American Pasquale Pati & Sons bank bombed by the Black Hand

March 12, 1909
Italian Squad Commander Joseph Petrosino murdered in Palermo, Italy

April 12, 1909
Hundreds of thousands attend Petrosino’s funeral in and around St. Patrick’s Cathedral

July 4, 1914
Anarchists Charles Berg, Carl Hanson and Arthur Caron blow themselves up at 1626 Lexington Avenue while building a bomb intended for John D. Rockefeller

August 1, 1914
The Bomb Squad becomes independent of the Italian Squad

September 1914
The Black Hand Suspends activities

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October 12, 1914
Anarchists’ bomb explodes in north aisle of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

November 14, 1914
Bomb detonated in court at Tombs jail complex

March 2, 1915
Bomb Squad disrupts anarchist plot to bomb St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a second time

July 3, 1915
Bomb Squad called to J.P. Morgan’s house in Glen Cove on Long Island

July 7, 1915
J.P. Morgan attacker Erich Muenter’s bomb explodes on the Minnehaha at sea

July 30, 1916
Two million tons of munitions explode on Black Tom Island in New York Harbor, tremors felt as far as Philadelphia and Maryland

June 3, 1919
Anarchists bomb Judge Charles C. Nott’s house in Manhattan

September 16, 1920
First large vehicle bomb in U.S. history—dynamite in a horse-drawn cart—explodes in front of J.P. Morgan building, killing 38 and injuring 143—comes to be known as “Bloody Thursday”

1936
X-ray technology applied to a suspicious package for the first time

June 1940
Bombings at the German Consulate General and The Daily Worker newspaper

November 16, 1940
First bomb of Mad Bomber George Metesky found at Consolidated Edison Power House

September 24, 1941
Second Mad Bomber bomb found

March 29, 1951
Bomb explodes in sand box, Grand Central Terminal—attributed to Mad Bomber

April 24, 1951
Bomb explodes in phone booth at New York Public Library—attributed to Mad Bomber

August 27, 1951
Bomb explodes in Grand Central Terminal phone booth—attributed to Mad Bomber

September 12, 1951
Bomb explodes in phone booth of Consolidated Edison Building, 4 Irving Place—attributed to Mad Bomber

September 25, 1951
Bomb mailed to Consolidated Edison from White Plains—attributed to Mad Bomber

October 22, 1951
Bomb found in Paramount Theatre—attributed to Mad Bomber

November 28, 1951
Bomb explodes in locker at IRT Fourteenth Street East Side line station—attributed to Mad Bomber

March 19, 1952
Bomb explodes in phone booth at Port of New York Authority Terminal—attributed to Mad Bomber

June 30, 1952
Bomb explodes in Lexington Theatre, Lexington Avenue and Fiftieth Street—attributed to Mad Bomber

December 8, 1952
Bomb explodes in Lexington Theatre—attributed to Mad Bomber

March 10, 1953
Bomb explodes in seat at Radio City Music Hall—attributed to Mad Bomber

April 29, 1953
Bomb found in locker at Pennsylvania Station—attributed to Mad Bomber

May 6, 1953
Bomb explodes in locker at Grand Central Terminal—attributed to Mad Bomber

November 19, 1953
Bomb explodes in seat at Capitol Theatre, New York—attributed to Mad Bomber

March 16, 1954
Bomb explodes in men’s lavatory of Grand Central Terminal—attributed to Mad Bomber

August 4, 1954
Bomb found in phone booth being repaired at New York Telephone Building, 250 Hudson St. Booth had been removed from Pennsylvania Station—attributed to Mad Bomber

November 7, 1954
Bomb explodes in seat at Radio City Music Hall—attributed to Mad Bomber

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November 28, 1954
Bomb explodes in phone booth at Port Authority Bus Terminal—attributed to Mad Bomber

January 11, 1955
Bomb explodes in locker at Pennsylvania Station—attributed to Mad Bomber

March 8, 1955
Bomb explodes in Pennsylvania Station—attributed to Mad Bomber

May 2, 1955
Bomb found in Radio City Music Hall—attributed to Mad Bomber

August 11, 1955
Bomb found in Roxy Theatre—attributed to Mad Bomber

October 9, 1955
Bomb explodes in seat at Paramount Theatre—attributed to Mad Bomber

December 1, 1955
Bomb explodes in men’s lavatory of Grand Central Terminal—attributed to Mad Bomber

February 21, 1956
Bomb explodes on platform of IRT Sutter Avenue Station, Brooklyn—attributed to Mad Bomber

July 24, 1956
Bomb exploded in phone booth of Macy’s, 34th Street and Seventh Avenue—attributed to Mad Bomber

August 8, 1956
Bomb explodes at 301 59th Street, West New York, N.J., home of a guard who had found a pipe bomb in a phone booth at the R.C.A. Building and taken it home, thinking it a simple length of pipe—attributed to Mad Bomber

December 2, 1956
Six injured when Bomb explodes under seat at Brooklyn Paramount Theatre—attributed to Mad Bomber

December 24, 1956
Bomb found in phone booth of New York Public Library—attributed to Mad Bomber

December 27, 1956
Bomb found in seat at Paramount Theatre—attributed to Mad Bomber

January 22, 1957
George Metesky arrested as Mad Bomber

April 18, 1957
Mad Bomber George Metesky convicted by a judge

September 9, 1957
Final unexploded bomb of Mad Bomber found in seat at Loew’s Lexington Theater at 51st Street

May 1, 1971
Explosive Detection Canines introduced to NYPD Bomb Squad

March 7, 1973
Acting on intelligence, after frantic search NYPD locates car bomb planted by Black September’s Khalid Duhham Al-Jawary at JFK Airport—first known bomb with an electronic timer

December 3, 1973
Bomb Squad Police Officer Vincent David Connolly killed in an automobile accident on the FDR Drive while rushing to the scene of an explosion on Fifth Avenue in lower Manhattan

October 18, 1974
Stolen vehicle found with 120 pounds of ammonium nitrate on Lower East Side

October 26, 1974
Five explosions across Manhattan perpetrated by FALN

December 11, 1974
FALN bomb in East Harlem blinds police officer Angel Poggi in one eye

January 24, 1975
FALN bombing at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan kills four

July 12, 1978
FALN bomb maker William Morales blows off his own hands at 24-49 96th Street in Elmhurst, Queens

May 21, 1979
FALN bomb maker William Morales escapes from the maximum-security ward at Bellevue Hospital

December 29, 1975
Croatian nationalists explode bomb in the baggage area of LaGuardia Airport, killing 11 and wounding 75

September 10, 1976
Fighters for Free Croatia hijack TWA Flight 355 with fake pressure-cooker bomb and place a real one in locker at Grand Central Terminal

September 11, 1976
Bomb Squad Detective Brian J. Murray killed while attempting to dismantle Croatian terrorist bomb at Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx and Bomb Squad Sergeant Terence McTigue severely injured

March 17, 1981
Bomb explodes by headquarters of Yippies at 9 Bleecker Street, injuring two policemen

May 16, 1981
The Puerto Rican Armed Resistance bombs Pam Am Terminal at JFK, killing one, with Bomb Squad rendering safe a second device

December 31, 1982
FALN explosions occur by FBI Field Division Headquarters at 26 Federal Plaza, at Police Headquarters, at Federal Courthouse at Cadman Plaza and at U.S. Attorney’s Office at One St. Andrews Plaza—severely injuring Detective Richie Pastorella and Detective Sergeant Tony Senft of Bomb Squad

December 10, 1985
Bomb explodes in bathroom of the Manhattan Women’s Medical Center at 115 East 23rd Street

October 29, 1986
Bomb explodes in empty waiting room of the Eastern Women’s Center at 40 East 30th Street

November 11, 1986
Bomb Squad defuses bomb at Queens Women’s Medical Office at 83-06 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst

December 14, 1986
Bomb Squad defuses bomb at Margaret Sanger Center of Planned Parenthood at 380 Second Avenue, earning Detective Denis Mulcahy the Medal of Valor

February 26, 1993
Ramzi Yousef detonates truck bomb beneath World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring 650

March 4, 1993
Bomb Squad Detective Donald Sadowy discovers evidence that breaks first World Trade Center bombing case

July 31, 1997
Police raid an apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn and foil first likely attempt at a U.S. suicide bombing, planned for the Atlantic Avenue train station

September 11, 2001
Bomb Squad Detective Claude “Danny” Richards dies a hero attempting to rescue a woman at the north tower of World Trade Center

May 1, 2010
A Pakistani-American named Faisal Shahzad attempts but fails to detonate his car bomb near Times Square—the device rendered safe by NYPD Bomb Squad detectives

Bomb Squad Gadget Glossary

A AND E
Colloquialism for AES

ADIC
Assistant Director in Charge, FBI

AES
Arson and Explosion Squad, an NYPD investigative unit also known as A&E

AHURA
A brand of field spectrometer used for field tests of possible explosives and toxic agents

ANDROS F6A
Manufactured by Northrop Grumman’s Remotec division, the F6A is one of three bomb disposal robots currently deployed by the NYPD Bomb Squad. From the manufacturer: “The Remotec ANDROS F6A is the most versatile, heavy-duty robot on the market. Speed and agility unite to make it the first choice for a wide range of missions, and its proven stair climbing ability, rugged and dependable chassis, and an arm capable of lifting 65 lbs mean that the F6A is more than strong enough to handle any task.”

ANDROS HD-1
Manufactured by Northrop Grumman’s Remotec division, the Wolverine is one of three bomb disposal robots currently deployed by the NYPD Bomb Squad. From Wikipedia: “HD-1 is wheeled and optionally tracked like the Wolverine, but is the smallest (and newest) ANDROS variant, weighing 200 lbs.”

ANDROS WOLVERINE
Manufactured by Northrop Grumman’s Remotec division, the Wolverine is one of three bomb disposal robots currently deployed by the NYPD Bomb Squad. From Wikipedia: “Wolverine is a wheeled and optionally tracked design and is the largest in the ANDROS family at 810 lbs.”

ATF
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

CIA
Central Intelligence Agency

CSU
Crime Scene Unit, the NYPD’s name for the CSI department

DARPA
Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, the main research arm of the US Department of Defense

EDC
Explosive Detection Canine, a dog especially trained to sniff out bombs and the ingredients of explosives

EOD
Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the US military’s equivalent of a Bomb Squad

ESU
Emergency Services Unit

ETK
Explosive Test Kit, used for detecting explosive residue in the field

F6A
See ANDROS F6A

FBI
The Federal Bureau of Investigation

GLOCK 19
This versatile pistol is favored for its compactness and efficiency. It is one of three production pistols that NYPD detectives may choose to carry as their service weapon.

HD-1
See ANDROS HD-1

HDS
Hazardous Devices School, conducted by the FBI out of Huntsville, Alabama, where all bomb techs in the nation train

IABTI
International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators

IED
Improvised Explosive Device

IMEI
A type of cell phone “fingerprint”

JTTF
Joint Terrorism Task Force, consists of designated federal and local agencies and police forces

ME
Medical Examiner

MOS
Military Occupational Specialty

MP
Military Police

NJTTF
National Joint Terrorism Task Force

NSA
National Security Agency

NSN NUMBER
A type of cell phone “fingerprint”

NYPD
New York Police Department

PAN
Percussion-Actuated Non-Electric Disrupter

PO
Police Officer

PSA
Police Service Area

RDX
Research Department Explosive, also known as cyclonite, more powerful than TNT

RPG
Rocket-Propelled Grenade

RSP
Render-Safe Procedure

RUC
Royal Ulster Constabulary

SABT
Special Agent Bomb Technician, a designation in the FBI’s Bomb Squad

SAC
Special Agent in Charge, an FBI responsibility

SCANX
The brand of portable x-ray devices used by the NYPD Bomb Squad

SCR
Silicon Control Rectifier, a solid-state switching device, similar to a relay switch

SDS
Sergeant—Supervisor Detective Squad

SIG SAUER P226
Originally designed for the US Army, this is one of three production pistols that NYPD detectives may choose to carry as their service weapon. The longer barrel improves ballistic performance and accuracy.

SMITH & WESSON MODEL 5946 DAO
Said to fit comfortably in the hand and be very reliable, this is one of three production pistols that NYPD detectives may choose to carry as their service weapon.

SOD
Special Operations Division, highly trained squad formerly known as the SWAT team

TATP
Triacetone triperoxide, a primary high explosive

TCV
Total Containment Vehicle

USAID
The United States Agency for International Development

USSS
United States Secret Service

VIN
Vehicle Identification Number

WOLVERINE
See ANDROS Wolverine