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Cops: Bomb blows up North Babylon basement, injures teen

Suffolk County police Arson Squad and ATF investigators

Suffolk County police Arson Squad and ATF investigators at a home on Pell Avenue in North Babylon where a 17-year-old was sent to the hospital. (Sept. 28, 2009) Credit: James Carbone

North Babylon High School officials put the campus on a partial lockdown Tuesday as federal and local authorities continued to investigate a student who accidentally set off a homemade pipe bomb in his basement.

Vincent Pizzone, 17, seriously injured his hand Monday night as he filled a metal tube with explosive materials before it unexpectedly went off at the Pell Avenue home he shares with his parents and sister.

Despite Pizzone's statement that he meant no harm and planned to set the pipe bomb off in his backyard, authorities said they are still investigating whether he intended to use the device to cause property damage or hurt anyone. On Pizzone's bedroom door, police discovered about a half dozen photos of the interior of Columbine High School and the two students who committed the 1999 attack at the Colorado school.

Police are examining a computer taken from the home, and federal agents are examining other possible bomb-making components and accelerants found in the workshop where the bomb went off. "We're not closing the book on this yet," said Det. Lt. James Rooney of the arson squad.

As a precaution, North Babylon schools Superintendent Robert Aloise said Tuesday the high school was placed on "a modified lockdown."

Officers responding to a 911 call Monday night about an explosion at the home found blood on the front stairs and driveway, Rooney said.

Pizzone later told detectives at the hospital where he was rushed by his parents that "this was his project. His intention was to detonate it in his yard. That's what he stated," Rooney said.

Pizzone, was alone in the basement workshop of the home, police said. He had a short piece of copper tubing held vertically in a vise, and was pouring accelerants into the tube. "He did something to it causing a spark, and it exploded," Rooney said. The explosives were a mix of materials including model rocket accelerants and gunpowder taken from bullets belonging to his father, a former NYPD officer.

The detonation caused injuries to one hand. His parents took him to nearby Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where he was conscious. A Pizzone relative reached by phone at the house downplayed the seriousness of the incident.

"He's not an emotionally disturbed kid, he's a good kid," said the relative, who would identify herself only as Christina. She said Pizzone remained hospitalized Tuesday night but was expected to fully recover.

Arson Squad personnel, bomb technicians and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched the home. There were no bombs found, but Rooney said parts believed to be intended for a pipe bomb as well as model rocket propellants were found.

In an electronic message sent to district parents in English and in Spanish, Aloise said that "to ensure the safety of all students and staff, we conducted a backpack search of all high school students upon entry into the building."

A call to the district Tuesday was not answered.

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