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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of New York

For Immediate Release

Friday, September 22, 2017
James P. Kennedy, Jr.
, United States Attorney
Contact: Barbara Burns

Niagra Falls Man Pleads Guilty to Bomb Charge that Led to the Loss of His Leg

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced that Michael O’Neill, 47, of Niagara Falls, NY, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a destructive device before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, who is handling the case, stated that in the early hours of July 21, 2015, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call regarding an injury at 6761 Walmore Road in Wheatfield, NY. When emergency personal arrived at the scene, they discovered the defendant with a significant injury to his lower left leg, apparently the result of an explosion. O’Neill was immediately taken by Mercy flight to ECMC, where his left leg was amputated below the knee.

 

Subsequently, personnel from the Erie County Bomb Squad entered the unattached garage of the residence where the explosion occurred and discovered what appeared to be an area where explosive devices were being manufactured. Explosive powder and BB pellets were in plain view. Upon further inspection, Bomb Squad personnel discovered six destructive devices, five of which were constructed of hard cardboard tubing with sealed ends and a fuse. One of those five devices was labeled, “Powder w/Nails.” The sixth device was made out of a flashlight with sealed ends and a hole with a wick coming from the center. Other items discovered on the property 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 plastic box of triple seven pellets, and a plastic bottle labeled as triple seven powder.

 

Later on July 21, O’Neill told investigators that he had watched a video on YouTube regarding stump removal and had made a couple of M80’s. When the explosion occurred, O’Neill stated he was using extra materials from the M80’s to make “something.” The defendant said he was using a heat gun, which ignited what he was making. O’Neill dropped the item he was making on the floor of the garage and attempted to stomp it out when it exploded.

 

The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ashan Benedict, and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff James Voutour.

 

Sentencing is scheduled for December 11, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. before Judge Wolford.

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Field Division: New York Field Division