Gorbey Questions Bomb Tech

Posted May 12, 2008 at 6:17pm

Capitol Police bomb technicians were rushed and micromanaged by superiors outside of the bomb squad when they failed to detect explosives in Michael Gorbey’s truck in January, an officer who was demoted because of the oversight testified in court on Monday.

Sgt. Michael DeCarlo, the senior bomb technician on the scene during the Jan. 18 incident, told jurors that his superiors repeatedly asked him, “What’s taking so long?” and distracted him from his task as he oversaw his crew’s search of the truck. DeCarlo testified that the micromanagement led to miscommunication among his technicians, which he said was one of the reasons the explosives were undetected.

DeCarlo was called as a witness in D.C. Superior Court by Gorbey, who was arrested after being seen carrying a shotgun and is charged with multiple counts of possession of weapons and ammunition, as well as of attempting to manufacture a weapon of mass destruction.

Gorbey, assisted by public defender Eugene Ohm, is representing himself in the trial, now entering its third week.

The explosives were discovered in a follow-up search at the Government Printing Office three weeks after the initial investigation of the truck.

DeCarlo testified that because of the frenzied scene, his technicians departed from the standard, and slower, procedure of separately debriefing the rest of the team after each officer searched his portion of the vehicle.

Officers have testified during Gorbey’s trial that they failed to detect the explosives because they were under the front seat, which was jammed and would not move.

When the officer who missed the explosives reported that he had completed his investigation, DeCarlo testified, “I trusted him that when he said he searched the passenger side he searched under the seat.”

DeCarlo also testified that he was not on duty the day of the incident, but arrived late on the scene after being rushed from a security advance trip for a Congressional delegation.

Gorbey called DeCarlo as a witness in what appeared to be an attempt to capitalize on comments the officer made during an interrogation by Capitol Police superiors after the explosives were discovered.

According to a transcript of that interrogation, DeCarlo said that the explosives detected did not qualify as an IED. Gorbey seized on a remark DeCarlo made to superiors, which he asked DeCarlo to read from the written report, when DeCarlo said that the explosives were “just as dangerous as a can of black powder sitting on a shelf at Wal-Mart.”

The device would not have detonated by itself, DeCarlo testified in court, but needed a trigger such as heat or friction.

Under cross examination from prosecutors, however, DeCarlo said he had used the more benign characterization of the device because he was defending himself from accusations of negligence by his superiors.

“You have to realize the context that the interview was two hours after I learned I was being removed from the bomb squad,” DeCarlo said.

Later Monday, Special Agent Charles Woods also testified that the device wasn’t an IED because it didn’t have a fuse.

DeCarlo said he accepted responsibility for his squad’s error. He declined to respond to a question after his testimony about whether he would appeal his demotion from the bomb squad.

Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.