Public warned about explosive-laden trail cameras in Kentucky

Public warned about explosive-laden trail cameras in Kentucky

Authorities caution that should you find items to include trail cameras that are not yours in the woods of Harlan County, KY, to contact the ATF or State Police to have them check it out. (Photo: Chris Eger)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Kentucky State Police warn that 12 improvised explosive devices have been found in wooded areas of Harlan County.

The public safety advisory, issued Monday, cautions the devices were found along the Dave Smith Drainage Area– the Woodland Hills Subdivision– on the Little Black Mountain Spur in Harlan County. In at least three of the incidents, the devices were found inside trail cameras and were designed in such a way that they would trigger when batteries were inserted.

In some instances, other items such as paint cans were found in the area and a tree stand has reportedly been booby trapped as well.

The IEDs started popping up back in as far back as March and authorities have been on the lookout all summer.

A joint investigation by federal and local agencies led to the arrest of Mark Sawaf, 39, in June, after a device utilizing a Winchester 9mm shell casing, an unknown explosive material and a detonator, blew several fingers off a local man the month prior. Some of the components had been hot glued together.

According to court documents, prior to his arrest police did a trash pull on Sawaf’s garbage and found wire consistent with that used in the devices recovered, damaged shotgun shells, manuals and warranty cards from multiple brands of game cameras marred with dried hot glue, thermally damaged shotgun shells, firecrackers and a note saying “Broken camera for a broken soul.”

A search of his residence post-arrest found various trail camera parts, hobby fuse and wire insulation similar that recovered in the IEDs, a 410 shotgun shell containing a suspected explosive filler with hobby fuse protruding from the shell and sealed with hot glue, 11 metal flashlights including one that had blast damage, a jug of black powder and six trail cameras in various condition.

In federal custody since his arrest in June, authorities brought Sawaf back to Harlan County earlier this month in an attempt to have him detail the location of remaining live devices. While on a trail head on August 11, Sawaf attempted to escape and was fatally shot by Lexington Fire Investigator Captain Brad Dobrzynski who was assisting with the investigation.

The indictment against the Sawaf was dismissed on Monday.

Authorities warn that should you locate a trail camera, tree stand, or other unaccompanied item which an IED could be connected to, not to touch it and immediately notify law enforcement. You can contact Kentucky State Police Post 10 (606-573-3131) or the ATF (859-219-4500). They advise that for items in wooded areas, GPS coordinates would be helpful.