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O'Neill charged in Wheatfield blast

Staff report

Fri, Jul 24th 2015 11:15 am

The Wheatfield man involved in an explosion Tuesday on Walmore Road now faces charges after investigators found seven improvised explosive devises in the garage where the blast took place.

Michael O'Neill, 45, of Wheatfield, has been charged with possession of an unregistered destructive device, according to U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank T. Pimentel is handling the case. More charges may be forthcoming.

The Sheriff's Communication Center received a 911 call at 3:38 a.m. July 21 from a woman at the home at 6761 Walmore Road, reporting an explosion and smoke coming from the home's detached garage. When sheriff's deputies arrived, they found the man on the ground with a "catastrophic" injury to his foot.

O'Neill is the stepson of longtime Niagara County Legislature Chairman William Ross, who owns the home where the explosion took place. Ross is cooperating with the investigation. Sheriff James Voutour said the injured man is a former corrections officer with the Sheriff's Office. O'Neill remains in the hospital.

After the blast Tuesday, personnel from the Erie County Bomb Squad entered the unattached garage where the explosion had occurred, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Officers noticed what appeared to be an area where explosives were being manufactured and explosive powder and BBs in plain view. The bomb squad also discovered what appeared to be seven improvised explosive devices; one was labeled "Powder w/Nails." Other items discovered included two pill bottles labeled as flash powder, a bag of potassium perchlorate, 36 shotgun shells reloaded with fragments inside, a plastic bottle of triple seven powder, a box of triple seven pellets and a plastic bottle labeled as triple seven powder.

An X-ray exam of the device labeled "Powder w/Nails" determined nails were packed into the device. It was disassembled and found to contain multiple nails, BBs and suspected flash powder. A check determined O'Neill does not have any firearms or destructive devices registered under the National Firearms Act.

The complaint is the culmination of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Delano A. Reid and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.

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