Justice Is Everyone's Business

Seeking to Restore Integrity and
Public Trust in Our Justice System

Justice will not be served until those who are
unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
—Benjamin Franklin

The Siege on Summer Street (Salem, Oregon 22 January 2019)

4. Tear Gas, Smoke, and Flash-bang Grenades
— and the Fires They Cause

Because the details of the fire are at the heart of the criminal charge of arson, lets have a closer look at those details.

4. Tear Gas Grenades Can Cause Fires

This is the fourth of a seven-part story.

While flash-bangs grenades are known to be incendiary, tear gas grenades are often regarded as benign.  But that is not true.  The National Institutes of Health/National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) tells us about the differences between (1) tear gas dispensed by sprays and (2) tear gas dispensed by grenades ("canisters").

Source: Tear gas: an epidemiological and mechanistic reassessment (cached)

NCBI informs us that grenades are powered by a pyrotechnic (chemical fire) mixture.  "Sprays use a liquid formulation that is released from a pressurized dispenser, while grenades and canisters use a powdered form blended with a pyrotechnic mixture that can be aerosolized for dispersion as a smoke or fog."

And tear gas grenades ("canisters") have caused fires in homes and buildings:

  • A report in the Kitsap Sun (Washington State) on June 28, 2002 cites the Kitsap Fire Marshal’s report that a tear gas canister started a deadly fire in an April SWAT team standoff.

    Source: FIRE MARSHAL'S REPORT: Tear gas canister started deadly fire (cached)

  • A report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of May 30, 2001, reveals that tear gas canisters fired at a burglary suspect touched off a fire that gutted a pharmacy. The article quotes a training specialist with the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois: "A number of buildings have been burned to the ground," he said of tear gas.  "There's always that potential."

    Source: Tear Gas Started Pharmacy Fire, Report Says (cached)

  • Firehouse Forums published "Fires from CS Gas Canisters" on April 25, 2005: CS tear gas canisters were fired into a house and caused a fire.

    Source: Fires from CS Gas Canisters (cached)

So, either aware, unaware, or simply unmindful of the fire potential, the Salem SWAT Team bombarded the house and its surrounds with tear gas canisters and flash-bangs to force Ketchem out.  Then, as we shall see, all tear gas and flash-bang ordinance debris was removed by the Salem police before the Salem Fire Marshal’s office was brought in to inspect the scene and determine what caused the fires.  GOSH!  What could the police have been thinking?

Lots of Tear Gas

The record shows the police used an astonishing quantity of teargas during the incident:

  • The owners of 1050 Summer St. NE told the neighborhood blog that the police threw as many as 15 grenades of tear gas into the house.
  • Source: Nextdoor Neighbors Chat, 3 Aug, 2019, Slade-Graves.  (cached)

  • The Salem Police Department Property Report states that six 40 MM CS Gas canister cartridge casings were removed from the backyard (Pgs. 5 and 6 of 15).  Another two rounds were found under the deck in the rear of the house (Pg. 7 of 15).  Three spent smoke canisters and 13 spent gas round bases were collected from within and around ground floor and upper floor by Det. Abel (Pg. 8 of 15).
  • Source: Salem Police Department Property Report Pg. 5, 6, 7, 8 of 15; Bates 00413, 00414, 00415, 00416.

  • Ofc. Kirksey stated: "At about 1319 hours, other officers were deploying CS gas on the east side of the residence …"
  • Source: Incident Supplement, Ofc. Court Kirksey, Pg. 2 of 4, Bates 00186.

  • In his report, Ofc. Menges stated: "… Lt. Adams (S301) gave direction to introduce CS gas … I used the 40 MM launcher to deploy 5 canisters of 4330 launchable CS barricade projectiles into the upper level through a window.  I then deployed 4 more canisters of the same projectile into a basement window, all on the north side of the residence."
  • Source: Incident Supplement, Ofc. Lewis Menges, Pg, 2 of 3, Bates 00104.

Flash-Bangs-And-Fires

An "FSDD" (Flash Sound Diversionary Device), also called a "flash-bang," is a grenade with a specific purpose.  According to Wikipedia, a flash-bang is:

... an ostensibly non-lethal explosive device, used to temporarily disorient an enemy's senses.  It is designed to produce a blinding flash of light of around 7 million candela (cd) and an intensely loud "bang" of greater than 170 decibels (dB).  It was first used by the British Army's Special Air Service in the late 1970s.

The flash momentarily activates all photoreceptor cells in the eye, blinding it for approximately five seconds.  Afterward, the victim perceives an afterimage that impairs their aim.  The sheer volume of the detonation also causes temporary deafness in the victim and also disturbs the fluid in the ear, causing a loss of balance.  Despite the nonlethal intentions behind the grenade, the resulting concussive blast still has the ability to cause injuries, and the heat created has been known to ignite flammable materials.  The fires that occurred during the Iranian Embassy siege in London were caused by stun grenades coming into contact with flammable objects. — Wikipedia, "Stun grenade" [Emphasis added] (cached)

On April 4, 2019, Lt. Shawn Adams told the Grant Neighborhood Association (in concurrence with many of the police reports) flash-bangs were detonated only on the grounds outside the house.

Source: Address to the Grant Neighborhood Association, 4 April, 2019 by Lt. Shawn Adams.

If that were true, it would be a mysterious tactic.  The flash is designed to disrupt human sight by overstimulating the retina.  But if the fugitive is protected from the explosion by a wall, the flash would have minimal effect.  The only people able to see the flash would be the police and the neighbors, and that would be counter-productive to the purpose of the SWAT team.

Similarly, the bang is designed to disrupt the functions of the human ear, both balance and hearing.  But if the fugitive is separated from the explosion by the insulated exterior wall of a house, the bang would have minimal effect on the fugitive.  It might impress the neighbors and disorient the police surrounding the house, but it would be counter-productive to the purpose of the SWAT team.

Therefore, we should be skeptical of police statements about the deployment of the flash bangs.  Such a tactic would fail to serve the purpose of the device.  Moreover, news photos taken that evening provide strong evidence that flash-bangs may have been detonated inside the house.  The photos show a drape hanging limp and ragged through a broken window as though blown through the window from an explosion inside.

Source: See photos A, B, and C, all from KOIN news. See also left sidebar of this webpage, "Exterior of Property."

Additional Records of Flash-bang Deployment

Det. Libby interviewed neighbors [B] and [R], who said a SWAT team arrived and the Salem Fire Department sometime after. 

"[B] and [R] said the first ‘action’ they saw was flash grenades being deployed … At approximately 1000 hours, by [B] and [R]’s estimation, they saw smoke begin to billow from the chimney of the residence." 

Source: Incident Supplement, Det. Charles Libby, Pg. 5 of 9, Bates 00170

Ofc. Singleton reported:

"I heard, via radio, that a flash-bang was authorized for use.  Immediately after the flash-bang went off, I again began to give announcements to Kenneth and instructed him to exit the house."

Source: Incident Supplement, Ofc. Bobby Singleton, Pg 3 of 6, Bates 00173.

From Incident Summary and Resolution:

"At approximately 0957 hours, I deployed a FSDD [Flash Sound Diversionary Device] on the exterior of the house at the 1/4 corner … At approximately 0957 hours, Ofc. Hughes spotted what appeared to be flames from a fire through the front door window on the 1 side. … At approximately 1010 hours, Cpl. Waite indicated there was now visible flames inside the residence on the 4 side … At approximately 1010, it appeared the fire had extinguished itself … At approximately 1141 hours the fire appeared to have re-ignited and we could again see flames."

Source: Incident Summary and Resolution, Pg. 3, Bates 02301.

Flash-bang and Fire Coincidence

Note, above, that at 9:57 a flash-bang was deployed, and that 9:57 flames appeared at the same spot.

Source: Incident Summary and Resolution, Pg. 3, Bates 02301.

Sgt. Riddle also reported:

"… I deployed a FSDD (Flash Sound Diversionary Device) commonly referred to as a flash-bang on the outside of the house along the 4 side … Sometime after the FSDD deployment officers near me said they say what appeared to be flames visible through the front door window.  A team on the 4 side also confirmed the flames through a window on the 4 side."

Source: Incident Supplement, Sgt. Matthew Riddle, Pg 1 of 3, Bates 00094.

So there it is: a flash-bang deployed on the 4 side, followed by flames on the 4 side.  Just maybe the flash-bang deployed to the "outside" of the house did not land on the "outside" but on the inside?  Would the police ever fudge their reports to protect the city from their costly mistakes, and themselves from personal embarrassment?

Water Caused Fire To Regenerate

One of the officers reported that the fire on the first floor of the house repeatedly regenerated after water was sprayed into the house.

"The previous fire was somehow reignited in the level one room near the one/four corner.  The flames grew quickly and soon burning debris could be seen falling into the basement window near the one/four corner.  I informed the Command Post of the fire and a plan was made to introduce water with a fire hose …"

"Medic Harvey was able to introduce water into the four side level one and basement windows.  The fire would diminish but would quickly reignite each time Medic Harvey would spray water inside.  The house quickly filled with thick black smoke which could be seen billowing from several windows around the house.  I felt it was unlikely Kenneth could survive inside the structure with the heavy smoke …"

Source: Incident Supplement, Cpl. Adam Waite, Pg. 6 of 8, Bates 00145

To Cpl. Waite, that was obviously unusual behavior for a fire. But the behavior of a fire depends upon the fuel.  Water is good for extinguishing wood and paper fires (Class A), but no good at all for some other kinds.  When hot enough, some metals burn resulting in Class D fires.  And for those fires, water is not only useless, but actually dangerous.  Flash-bang grenades contain the flammable metals aluminum and magnesium, incendiary chemicals, and perhaps other things depending on the brand.  When doused with water, a Class D metal fire might behave exactly as Cpl. Waite described.

Source:

As told in that article, even hot aluminum shavings (a component of flash-bangs) can be a deadly incendiary when sprayed with water.

Another report of the fire dying and re-igniting is found in the Incident Summary and Resolution.

"At approximately 1010, it appeared the fire had extinguished itself … At approximately 1141 hours the fire appeared to have re-ignited and we could again see flames."

Source: Incident Summary and Resolution, Pg. 3, Bates 02301.

Witnesses Report: First Floor Fire Burned Through to Basement

The following Salem Police witnesses stated that fire started on the first floor and then burned into the basement:

  • Sgt. Hughes.
    "During this time I saw and broadcast via radio multiple times that a fire had been started inside the residence on the first level.

    "The fire eventually raged inside a room at the SW corner, and I could see it was burning through the floor as evidenced by flames and falling debris I could see through a basement window under the burning room and basement."

    Source: Incident Supplement, Ofc. Cole Hughes, Pg. 1 of 3, Bates 00106.

  • Cpl. Waite:
    "The previous fire was somehow reignited in the level one from near the one/four corner.  The flames grew quickly and soon burning debris could be seen falling into the basement window near the one/four corner.  I informed the Command Post of the fire and a plan was made to introduce water with a fire hose.  Initial attempts to combat the fire from the one side were unsuccessful. …

    "Medic Harvey was able to introduce water into the four side level one and basement windows.  The fire would diminish but would quickly reignite each time Medic Harvey would spray water inside.  The house quickly filled with thick black smoke which could be seen billowing from several windows around the house.  I felt it was unlikely Kenneth could survive inside the structure with the heavy smoke."

    Source: Incident Supplement, Cpl. Adam Waite, Pg. 3 of 8, Bates 00142.

  • Incident Summary and Resolution
    "01/22/2019 1225: (S388) FIRE APPEARS TO HAVE BURNED THROUGH FLOOR FROM LEVEL 1 TO BASEMENT. CAN SEE IT IN BASEMENT FALLING FROM ABOVE."

    Source: [Document without title] Bates 02308.

  • Salem Police Department Response Report
    01/22/2019 13:33:50   NO FIRE IN THE BASEMENT

    Source: Salem Police Department Response Report, Pg. 5 of 30, Bates 00034.