Even police surprised by amount of illegal fireworks found in Puyallup investigation

Staff writerJune 21, 2013 

Illegal fireworks are loaded into a moving van Thursday night in Puyallup.


The explosive has an ominous nickname: "Joke’s on You."

Among the many illegal fireworks seized late Thursday in Puyallup by local and federal law enforcement teams, that particular item alarmed Puyallup Police Capt. Scott Engle.

The “Joke’s on You” device delivers a double shot of boom. The first pop is minor. The second is bigger, linked to major injuries.

“It goes off like a minor explosion, then there's a delay – then it goes off with a major explosion,” Engle said.

The fireworks seized Thursday night filled a moving van. The total street value reached $40,000, Engle said. Authorities arrested a man in his 40s, yet to be charged or publicly identified. Investigators still were chasing potential trails in the case.

The fireworks were stored in three garages, tied to an apartment complex in the 1600 block of East Main Street. Authorities found a similar stash in a barn elsewhere in the county, tied to the same man.

The cache was so large that Puyallup Tribal Police, who picked up the original tip and led the investigation, joined forces with Puyallup Police, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Eye-opening for all of us,” Engle said. “I haven't seen anything like this.”

The stash included numerous items that crossed legal lines – stuff forbidden even in the looser realm of tribal fireworks. One such item mimics a sci-fi light saber. A similar device blew off a boy’s hand last year, Engle said. Other explosives included improvised devices: modified fireworks, re-tooled and assembled with deceptive labels.

“Flat illegal in the United States,” Engle said. “Really powerful stuff, flat dangerous.”

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

Thursday night report: 'Large cache' of illegal fireworks found at Puyallup apartment complex

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