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Grenade safely removed after surprise delivery

The Hubbard County Law Enforcement Center was cordoned off Thursday afternoon when a well- meaning citizen brought a grenade in, wondering what she should do with it.

It was in her purse.

"We suggested she take it right back outside," said Chief Deputy Frank Homer, describing the startled reaction from law enforcement staff.

The woman deposited the grenade outside the front door, where deputies quickly smothered it with sand bags.

"The pin was in it, but the top was loose," said Hubbard County Sheriff Gary Mills, shaking his head at the close call.

They called in the nearest bomb squad, in Crow Wing County. Within 90 minutes, bomb squad deputies had pulled up and were unloading their computer-controlled bomb robot.

They directed the robot to the sand pile, where it gently extracted the grenade, ferried it in its claw arm to the bomb truck and lowered it into a cardboard box.

The box, swaying precariously in the windy conditions, was then gently lowered into a bombproof container, sealed and prepared for transport back to Brainerd.

"We'll take it back and counter-charge it," said Crow Wing deputy Jamie Lee. "Then we'll dispose of it." He said if the ride jostled the grenade and it happened to explode in the container, the force of the charge would be directed upward, not out.

It would be a harmless explosion, he assured anxious bystanders.

The intricate operation was executed flawlessly in less than an hour. Near the courthouse a cat stood on the curb, transfixed watching it all.

"There's always the potential for things to go wrong," Lee said. "But we approach these as if there was a live grenade or a live explosive."

Lee and fellow deputy Todd Hines directed the delicate retrieval via computer as if they were playing an Xbox game.

Only this one was deadly serious. It took several precise maneuvers to get the grenade safely into the box.

Both men exuded calm. Streets surrounding the Law Enforcement Center were blocked off as a precaution.

"It's your standard pineapple grenade," said Hubbard County Emergency Management Director David Konshok. "It looks to be a Vietnam era ordnance but we'll have to wait to see."

Konshok, who was on the scene, has military training in explosives, and has served on squads that disposed of ordnances.

Crow Wing has one of four bomb squads in the state. The other three are in the metro area. Its squad handles calls from St. Cloud to Canada, Lee said.

It's still unclear how the woman came to have the grenade in her possession. Konshok said he understood she found it on the property.

The sheriff was told her relative had it and she thought it might be safer to turn it in.

In any event, the incident started just after 1 p.m. By 5:30 it was headed on a trailer to Brainerd.