Suitcase of dynamite causes a stir in Evergreen Park
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org May 21, 2014 6:52PM
Cook County bomb squad members place a box into bomb safe vehicle. Police respond to a home in Evergreen Park for a report of a 60-year-old box of dynamite found in a man's home. | NBC Channel 5 Chicago
Updated: June 24, 2014 7:44AM
A basement cleanup of a sewage leak led to a surprising discovery of dynamite Wednesday morning at a home in Evergreen Park, which in turn led to a bomb squad responding, a lockdown of a four-block area, and homes being evacuated.
It turned out that 24 sticks of dynamite had been stored for more than 60 years in a suitcase in the home of a 93-year-old man who wasn’t sure how to get rid of it.
Tony Scarano, of the 9700 block of South Hamlin Ave., never forgot he had the dynamite that he stored for a friend who worked in the construction business and was moving to California, said his niece, who declined to be identified. But he never could figure out a way to get rid of it safely, either, she said.
So on Wednesday, after a sewage leak in his basement forced a cleanup, he asked a caretaker to grab the suitcase and move it outdoors and throw it out. The caretaker took the suitcase outside but became alarmed when Scarano told her there was dynamite inside, police said. So she called the Evergreen Park police at 10:12 a.m.
Police contacted the Cook County Bomb Squad, and an explosives-sniffing dog confirmed the presence of an explosive, Evergreen Park police Lt. Pete Donovan said. The bomb squad later destroyed the dynamite — which checked in at 50 pounds — at the Thornton Quarry, Donovan said.
There were no injuries and no charges filed, Donovan said. But it all made for an eventful day in the normally quiet, leafy neighborhood.
Nearby homes were evacuated by police. Traffic was shut down on several streets as police and the bomb squad figured out how to handle the suitcase. Nearby schools were notified to keep students indoors.
“I’m no expert,” Donovan said, “but I think 50 pounds of dynamite would do some major damage. It wouldn’t be pretty.”
“We’re just happy that it went as smoothly as it did,” Mayor James Sexton said.
Scarano, who spent the day at his niece’s home near Midway Airport until returning about 3:30 p.m., declined comment.
The sewage problem was not caused by Tuesday’s storms, the niece said. But while a plumber worked on it, a cap came off, releasing raw sewage into the basement and necessitating the cleanup, she said.
Lindsey McCormick, 19, who lives with her family just west of the Scarano residence, was surprised when a police officer knocked about 10:30 a.m. and told them to evacuate.
“They said an hour, but it wound up being more like three,” said McCormick, who stayed with friends nearby.
Her sister, Jolene McCormick, 20, fondly recalled taking piano lessons from Scarano when she was in second or third grade.
“He’s very nice. He was very patient and understanding. I like him. He’s always ‘Tony the Neighbor.’ He’s a great neighbor,” she said.
Scarano for years wrote a column called “The Wine Guy” for The Reporter, a weekly newspaper based in Palos Heights, his niece said.
He used to make his own wine at home; formerly worked in the music business, giving accordion lessons; he and his late wife owned a children’s clothing store in Brighton Park; he was born in America after his family came here from Italy; and he served in the Army during World War II, the niece said.
“He’s got a good nature and is very, very intelligent and thoughtful. I told him to ‘Laugh it off, Uncle. Nobody got hurt,’ ” she said of the dynamite discovery.
One woman driving past in a van stopped to talk with neighbors shortly after police left about 2:20 p.m.
“This is the most excitement in Evergreen Park since the Unabomber,” she said.
Another woman, who also declined to be identified, coincidentally was wearing a shirt from her former softball team that read “Bombers.”
“I work nights and was in a dead sleep when (the police) came banging on my door,” she said.
Contributing: Jon Seidel