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Navy sailor faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing hand grenades – says Mexican ‘cartel’ may have some

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Kidd (DDG 100), USS Dewey (DDG 105) and USS Pinckney (DDG 91). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley/Released)
April 25, 2018

A U.S. Navy sailor was arrested Tuesday under suspicions of stealing 20 hand grenades off a destroyer, and he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

And, when speaking to a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent, the sailor in question said two of the missing grenades were probably in Tijuana, Mexico, because of his association with a former motorcycle club and its connection to the “cartel,” who requested grenades be stolen, Stars and Stripes reported.

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Aaron Booker was taken into custody on Tuesday by NCIS agents. Booker is 31 and from Waukegan, Illinois. He is charged with one count of possession of stolen explosives, according to a federal complaint that was unsealed Tuesday.

The hand grenades went missing more than a year ago, in February 2017, from the San Diego-based USS Pinckney and were later found on the side of a highway in northwest Arizona.

“A backpack full of grenades on the side of the road is obviously extremely dangerous and could have had resulted in injuries or death,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement, Fox reported. “The theft of explosives is a very serious offense, particularly if it is carried out by an insider with access to military weapons and secrets.”

Booker allegedly stole the hand grenades while he was aboard the USS Pinckney and was in charge of checking the secured locker were the grenades were being stored. He was assigned to the Weapons Department.

There were 15 sailors who had access to the grenades, but investigators had found nothing when they searched at the time, Stars and Stripes reported.

A black military backpack was found about two months later – in it were 18 grenades, officials said, and a tag in the backpack said “GM2 BOOKER.”

Booker, who had left the USS Pinckney about a week after the incident to drive to his new duty station in Great Lakes, told officials at the time that his backpack had been stolen from him and denied accusations that he took the grenades, Stars and Stripes reported.