9 Investigates

9 Investigates lack of regulation on legal target explosives in Central Florida

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — A legal explosive meant to be used during target practice has been linked to alleged terror plots across the country.

Most people use binary explosives for the intended reasons, but investigators across the country have accused others of having more sinister intentions.

“If it was used criminally or negligently, it could cause substantial damage,” Lieutenant Ralph McDuffie with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.

Binary explosives are legal and intended for target practice.  The popular brand ‘Tannerite’ requires a high-velocity rifle to detonate the blast, but over the last two years, the ingredients inside the legal target have been linked to alleged terror plots across the country.

In April 2017, a grand jury indicted 40-year-old Nicolai Mork on charges related to terrorism and alleged attempts to light incendiary devices across Las Vegas.  Police found him in possession of more than 250 pounds of chemicals to make binary explosives.

In March 2017, 57-year-old Howard Cofflin Junior of Maryland was found guilty of attempted murder and terrorism, after prosecutors say he planned to use a binary explosive to make shrapnel bombs to kill police officers.

In September 2016, Ahmad Khan Rahami was taken into custody after bombings in New York and New Jersey.  Sources told ABC News a bomb he allegedly placed in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood had a label on it for Tannerite.

On its website, Tannerite posted that its corporate investigator has been working to determine if, indeed, the product was factually and positively identified in connection with the acts of violence in New York, but that the company was unable to validate the allegations due to the ongoing investigation.

Calls to the company’s corporate investigator and media relations contact went unreturned.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulates explosives, but ATF doesn’t have any oversight of the sale or distribution of binary explosives.  The components in the product, separately, are not harmful.

Tannerite’s website stresses that the product is only intended to be used for target practice, and it warns you shouldn’t use more than 1lbs of the product per shot.

Tannerite also warns you should never place these targets inside, on top of, or under any metal, rock, or other surface that could produce flying debris or sparks, or within another object.  In Georgia, a man lost his leg after firing on a lawnmower that he told investigators was packed with Tannerite.

“There is a right way to do this, being responsible, following the instructions on the containers,” McDuffie said.