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Escondido “Bomb House” Burned Down

Editor's note: During this segment, it was mistakenly stated that George Jakubec owned the Escondido home he was living in. He rented it.

Audio

Aired 12/10/10

Authorities report the controlled burn of the Escondido "bomb house" went according to plan. What will be done to ensure that the property is safe and free of hazardous debris? And, what can be made of the bizarre story of accused bomb-maker George Jakubec?

Authorities report the controlled burn of the Escondido "bomb house" went according to plan. What will be done to ensure that the property is safe and free of hazardous debris? And, what can be made of the bizarre story of accused bomb-maker George Jakubec?

Guests

Kent Davy, editor of the North County Times.

JW August, managing editor for 10 News.

Andrew Donohue, editor of voiceofsandiego.org.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

GLORIA PENNER: Coast to coast headlines yesterday told the nation that a house in Escondido had been burned to the ground. Television images of the burning structure captured an audience, and people in the area had what appeared to be minor inconveniences. But now what happens? So Kent, before we talk about what happens next, let's briefly review why the house was burned down.

KENT DAVY: It was in western Escondido that a gardener was at back in mid November, he stepped on something out in the yard, blew up, sent some shrapnel into him, injured him, took him to the hospital, police came in, investigated and realized that the house had so many explosive chemicals in it and bomb making, grenade making equipment that that were you and in fact the bomb squadrons set off small -- other small explosives in the yard. They quartered off the house, arrested the owner, a man named George Jacubeck. First on state charges, eventually those charges were moved to federal court. The authorities after a lot of consultations with bomb and explosive experts, fire experts across the country, decided that the only safe way to deal with this house, because there was so much in it, it was so cluttered, was to burn it.

GLORIA PENNER: How long had he actually within in the house? Do we know.

KENT DAVY: I don't remember. I don't remember. For some time, yes.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. Not just a matter of weeks?

KENT DAVY: No, no, no.

GLORIA PENNER: He wasn't camping out there.

KENT DAVY: No.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. So that's really interesting as we start looking at the deeper story, just one more question. So the burn went off yesterday. Were there any glitches or --

KENT DAVY: No.

GLORIA PENNER: Did everything go as smoothly as they hoped?

KENT DAVY: It was a remarkably smooth event from probably every aspect. It was managed by the San Diego sheriff's department. The fire piece of it, I think, was under the command of the San Marcos fire chief. There were 23 agencies involved running from hole all wait through federal agencies of various sorts. The -- there were destructions to traffic as they shut down interstate 15 for three hours. But the burn went off actually about an hour or so later than they expected. I think is they started it at 1055, by an hour later, the house was reduced to rubble, the smoke went up probably -- I think I read some place with the sheriff had estimated it went up to 2500 feet before it started to dissipate. The toxic -- or the particulates in the air were less than normal, and that was because the freeway was shut do you happen. So everything went off very, very well. I think it was a real tribute to the planning and execution of the various public agencies involved that the thing went out the way it did.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, that's good to know. It's good to know that there's a good network of agencies that are able to work together under unusual circumstances. Before I go to the rest of the editors on this, element ask you, our listeners, so here you have a bomb, quote, bomb factory in a neighborhood that's not isolated. It's right in the middle of Escondido somewhere. And you wanted to say something?

KENT DAVY: Yeah, one thing about it, and this is -- I think the most interesting thing about this, bodies the fact that there was a house and they burned it do you happen and all this, is the silence the authorities have had on what this guy was doing this, and why does he have, 9, 10, 12 pounds of high explosive? Why does he have grenade moulds that have shrapnel embedded on them. What exactly was he gone do with this stuff?

GLORIA PENNER: And that really sort of gets me round to the question I was gonna ask our callers. Now you live in neighborhoods, general he, and you're not that far from your neighbors unless you live in one of the more rural areas of town. Would you know if a neighbor was engaging in this kind of activity? Or are we still so remote from each other that something like this can go on in the middle of a neighborhood, and people don't have a clue? What does it tell us about the neighborhoods in which we live, and also our relationships to other people? You know, the front porch type community where you look out of your house and you know what's going on in the neighborhood? Our number is 1-888-895-5727. I'd like to hear from you on this. What about you? I don't know where you live, I really don't think I've been to your house, JW.

JW AUGUST: South park.

GLORIA PENNER: Do you know what's going on in your neighborhood? I mean, would you know.

JW AUGUST: Well, I do smell meth once in a while coming up from the canyon. Yeah, I think I do. I know my immediate neighbors pretty well. You know, it's all about how America's changed and people rotating in and out of neighborhoods, and you really don't know your neighbor. The neighbors even heard some loud bangs.

GLORIA PENNER: That's right.

JW AUGUST: And we were talking before the show today, why didn't they say something or did they say something and we have not heard about it? Because it seemed to me that somebody might have reported this activity.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, obviously it was a compelling story, Andrew. It was certain a coast to coast, story. Maybe even internationally, so you would think when you have a story as compelling as this, that there might be just a nugget in the indeed vicinity that would be rolling around the neighborhood and some gossip might occur, something of that sort.

ANDREW DONAHUE: Yeah, we were talking about that, like JW said, it would be interesting to me to know what these explosions sounded like. Because you hear the word explosion and you hear that I think a sliding glass door and some windows were blown out, so you wonder if this was really a big, loud explosion, or maybe if it sounded like a fire cracker or maybe a car firing back or something like that. So you really don't know if this is something where neighbors heard noises and kind of passed them off or if there were actually warning signs to this. But I think, back to what Kent said, this has been an extraordinary story, and we still don't know most of it. Right now, the most extraordinary thing is authorities managed to burn down a house full of chemicals, but we don't know what this guy was up to. We don't know if he was kind of maybe just a loner who was really interested in war and in bombs or if he was working or plotting with somebody. I think it's quite remarkable that not even a nugget of that information has come out yet. And that's really what I'm gonna be watching for.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, yes. Kent?

KENT DAVY: Kind of touching on that idea, one of the things about this guy is that he has admitted to three bank robberies, and planning a fourth, I think that was right. All of them bank of America. So, you know, it's like there's this extension that's the bank robber who lives in your neighborhood who makes bombs. And what is -- where might that go? And I'm really puzzled that authorities have not at least told us what it isn't. You know, and said, well, it isn't a -- something, it's not home grown terrorism, or it is.

JW AUGUST: But the only thing I could think is, maybe they don't know yet. Maybe they still haven't put it together.

ANDREW DONAHUE: It seems though, normally you at least hear theories. And that's what's interesting about this, you haven't even heard a theory yet. And I wonder what's causing that. When he did the bank robberies, was he holding a gun or was he threatening with bombs? Is there any idea how he fully carried those out?

GLORIA PENNER: Is it possible in a story like this, Kent, that authorities are deliberately holding onto information that they have and are not disclosing it to the press?

KENT DAVY: I think it's not only possible, I think it's likely. After all, Jacubeck did talk to authorities. He told them where all the explosives were. He helped guide them through that house in his interviews with them. According to press accounts apparently, he admitted the bank robberies. So it's clear that he's talked at some level. So I'm assuming that he's talked a whole lot more about things that authorities don't want to talk about.

GLORIA PENNER: There are lots more questions I want ask you about that, but let's go on our listeners because they have some really interesting comments on this story. And we'll start with Allison in Oceanside. Allison, you're on with the editors. Thanks for calling in.

NEW SPEAKER: Thanks for taking my call. This isn't really about having a neighbor with bombs in your house, but how you don't know what people are doing. I live in what seems to be a pretty peaceful neighborhood. People hang out and have Chargers parties in their driveways, and you think you know your neighbors. But until I actually started talking to police, I didn't find how the that there were gun dealers living down the street, that there were several meth labs, the little small ones, but big enough to cause an explosion in my neighborhood. The police are doing a great job to clean it up, but at the same time, they're not very forthcoming with information unless you actually start talking to them and saying, hey, it's my neighborhood, I need to know.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. Well, thank you, Allison, and I guess that's all part of sort of being aware, you know, the old neighborhood watch idea. I live in a neighborhood where we used to have an active neighborhood watch. I'm not gonna tell you what neighborhood because neighborhood watch doesn't seem to be operating anymore. The police don't come and help to organize us. Maybe that has something to do with the limits on what police can do as their force gets smaller.

JW AUGUST: Well, there's one thing you can do, there's a computer system, a criminal justice system, you can sign up now, I think for everyone in the county and the city, and I get periodic reports by the computer if there's break ins in my neighborhoods or burglaries or any criminal activity within -- I ask for a one mile square radius around the house, and everybody can have that. It's just a matter of -- go -- finding the website, tap in your e-mail, and every time there's a criminal report generated, you'll get a heads up.

GLORIA PENNER: Our number is 1-888-895-5727. 1-888-895-5727 KPBS. We're really talking about all the unanswered questions in this incident, rather important incident because the entire region of San Diego was declared a disaster area by governor Schwarzenegger. = it has to do with the bomb house, the so called bomb house which has now been burned to the ground. Let's take a call from Lori Saldaña, Laurie welcome to the Editors Roundtable, is your term as assembly member over again.

NEW SPEAKER: I am a civilian. I am back in the fold.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. But we'll still take your call.

NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to remind listeners that North County has been the hub of Tom Metzger with his white supremacy group for decades, and that robbing banks, building up huge amounts of money, stock piling weapons, both traditional and these homemade types, those are all signs of while supremacists. And the North County has been a problem area just as east county has been a problem area, and I think it's worth talking with the sheriffs about. I certainly have working on hate crimes over the last several years, did this person have any association with white supremacists groups?

GLORIA PENNER: Kent Davy, what do we know about that?

KENT DAVY: No, almost nothing about this. In trying to background Jacubeck by our reporters, there is very, very little out there. The law enforcement has said almost nothing, there's been no scraps of information that lead to motive. So I think at this point to suggest that this is white supremacy at work would not be a logical conclusion.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, Laurie, thanks very much for your phone call. We're gonna continue with this story because there's so much more to talk about. There's the whole issue of the homeowner and whether the homeowner is gonna get compensated for the destroyed home. Right now there are conflicting stories on that, and I also want to take more calls and that's right after the break. This is the Editors Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner.

This is the Editors Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner, we're talking about the house filled with explosive materials that was burned down in Escondido. And the editors with me today are JW August from ten news, Kent Davy from the North County Times, and from voice of San Diego.org Andrew Donahue. And editors are saying, so it is information has come out. Yes, we know about the burn, we watched it on television, we know the house had explosives but we don't know anything about motivation, we don't know anything really about the background or the fact that the perpetrator had committed some robberies in the past. Not much information is coming out of this. And the editors have heard some theory which we may or may not go into. But I think if we keep that in mind, you know that even in this age of information of course sometimes there's information that is not readily available and may never become available. So if you have any questions about that, I'd like to hear from you. 1-888-895-5727. Christine from Oceanside is with us now. Christine, thanks for calling the Editors Roundtable.

NEW SPEAKER: My question concerns the liability of the owner, of the property who unfortunately lived in this house and is -- but why wasn't he super vises his tenant and to what extreme can he? I mean, I would think it would be his responsibility. And then also talking to people, a lot of people are concerned about there may be explosives in the yard. I'll take my call off the air. Thank you.

GLORIA PENNER: Thank you, Kent Davy.

KENT DAVY: The -- with regard to the latter, there will be a cleanup crew go in and basically cut all of the debris away down to the slab, and -- the best information that we have right now, who is a woman and who has not spoken to us, at least, is likely to find that her homeowner's insurance will not cover this. The county has said that it will not par for it, pay for the rebuilding of the house, so she's liable to be stuck. A landlord typically has right to enter with notice on their own property. I doubt that they have -- in general terms, I doubt that they have a lot of liability for what tenants do, but occasionally, I know there is some litigation where landlords have a duty to the greater public for things that go on that they know about.

GLORIA PENNER: There probably are some aspects of this that we are not yet familiar with in regard to what a homeowner's privilege is when it comes to hazardous materials. And we don't really have all those answers yet. So it's kind of hard to believe that authorities would take a home, destroy it, burn it to the ground, and the homeowner is left, okay, it's gone. You've lost your many tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

KENT DAVY: Any homeowner goes and looks at their property insurance, and the language in that, it does not cover acts of war, it doesn't cover riot. There are a whole list of things that the insurance company does not have to pay for. So given that this is it a state of -- there was a state of emergency declared to allow them to bush it down, and the insurance says not us, it's not surprising to me that the only owner gets stuck.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, well, you were speaking earlier -- well, I tell you what, let's take another call from Haley in San Diego. And I want to thank Christine for her call. Haley, let's hear what you have to say to the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Actually my daughter is one of the bomb arson officers that has been working on this case. And the whole not knowing what this man has been really intending to do, they literally do not know. Like, I mean, of course it's gonna be a different story to the news, but it's my dad so he kind of discloses a little bit more. And this guy, all they know is that he learned how to make bombs as a child, he has not admitted any involvement with terrorist organizations or any local organizations selling the bombs. Like the most frustrating part of this whole thing is that they just haven't known this entire time, like, what his intentions were.

KENT DAVY: Wow.

GLORIA PENNER: All right. Did you leave your phone number with our producers just in case we want to follow up with you, Haley?

NEW SPEAKER: Oh, no. I did not. But I can if you would like.

GLORIA PENNER: Yeah, I think that would be a good idea. Thanks Haley and thanks for your comment. Well, we're getting interesting phone calls that may be interesting information. So let's --

KENT DAVY: Hey, JW fainted over there.

GLORIA PENNER: Yeah, let's take another call. This one is from Annie in downtown. Hi Annie, you're on with the editors.

KENT DAVY:

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, well, I think this is one time when speculation is perfectly fine because what's gonna, you know, uncover this is gonna be I think a lot of gut instinct reaction. And I know that when Lori Saldaña called, my gut instinct was bingo. That makes so much sense. I think we can assume that this is not -- I think --

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. I'm afraid your phone carrying on there, so Annie, I'm sorry to hear about that. Gentlemen, let's have some last comments before we wrap up this segment. And let's talk about now, where do we go from here? What are the next steps? The bomb house is destroyed, the man is in custody, there's probably some theories out there about who he is and what he is. What happens next? JW?

JW AUGUST: Well, we're gonna have Chinese water torture on what's going on, they're probably gonna drip, drip, drip it out from the authorities. But the last lady makes a good point, if the public keeps talking about it, wanting to know, it's gonna dawn on the authorities, hey, we should do a press conference, tell people what we have, then we can tell them what we know, and without hurting our prosecution and the case. They are fully capable of doing that.

GLORIA PENNER: All right. And Andrew?

ANDREW DONAHUE: Yeah, you would normally think in a case like this, at the very at least, there's some sort of record. Of nowadays, they leave some comment on line or there's some website they were visiting or they get some sort of literature in their house. And we still don't know that. Or if there was, it hasn't been disclosed. So I think we just keep watching to see what this guy was up to, was he a lone wolf or was he working with other people?

GLORIA PENNER: I have something specific to ask you, Kent, these chemicals, do we have any idea how easy or hard it would be to get the ingredients to make those explosives?

KENT DAVY: I think some of them are fairly difficult to come by. Some of them, not the explosives that he was making are relatively rare. PTNT is the same explosive as the Richard reed, the shoe bomber used in that attempt. But some of the component parts are fairly easy, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, among other things. It's not impossible for somebody to obtain.

GLORIA PENNER: So we're really talking about a rather sophisticated knowledge of explosives here. And now that we know all of this has been destroyed by fire, I wonder how that will affect the Court trial when the defense says we don't want have any evidence.

KENT DAVY: The defense attorney went to court the day before the burn, so that would have been on Wednesday, and went to federal court to see if he could stop the burn, arguing that he and or his client needed to know opportunity to try and retrieve exculpatory evidence from the house. The judge heard the argument and said no. The prosecution's complaint or answer in -- or pleading in response to that, was fairly detailed about what they had done and seized. They had gone in, gotten the computer hard drive and computer records. But also indicated the place was so cluttered and there was so much stuff laying everywhere that it was very difficult and extraordinarily dangerous to be in. So given that record, my guess is, it won't negatively impact the prosecution. But well, that's none appeal court decision.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, well, thank you very much. And with that, I remind our callers who haven't had a chance to get on line, you can certainly comment on this story pie going to KPBS.org/Editors Roundtable.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Sunia'

Sunia | December 10, 2010 at 10:04 a.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

I especially appreciated some of the editors bringing up the glaring fact that so little information is being given about why Jakubek(sp) was doing this. Contrast this to the Times Square bomber and so many stories about his motivation. Usually there is so much more information about the background of the person. Why is this the case. Journalists, please look into this! What about the owner of the house? She is not saying anything either. Usually, the owner of the house tries to make sure that the house is not being destroyed by the renter. In this case, he was doing his business for apparently years (we don't have this information either). How is it possible that we cannot access all this information about these individuals?

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