The finding of a grenade during a traffic stop by Mount Airy police prompted the evacuation of nearly 10 homes in the Bannertown community Monday night and the closing of South Main Street as a precaution.
However, the grenade was found to be harmless during a subsequent examination by a State Bureau of Investigation bomb squad called to the scene.
Up to 15 people from eight or nine homes on South Main and Pittman streets were evacuated for about four hours as a result of the grenade discovery, according to Police Chief Dale Watson.
The incident unfolded shortly after 8 p.m. Monday when police pulled over a vehicle near the SAR Express convenience store at 1412 S. Main St.
During the traffic stop, officers determined there was probable cause to search the vehicle, although Watson declined to elaborate on the nature of that to avoid hampering a continuing investigation.
“In the search, an inactive grenade was located,” the police chief said.
But until that determination was made, officials had to act as if a live explosive were involved because the level of hazard was unknown, Watson explained. “You have to take precautions,” he said of the protocol for public safety personnel in such situations.
Residents of the affected area were then evacuated, with Watson saying that they were extremely cooperative. Some had nowhere to go and were provided a place to stay by the local office of the American Red Cross.
The residents were allowed to return about four hours later.
South Main Street was closed during the investigation from Bluff Street to the area of Speedy Chef. The Mount Airy Fire Department assisted at the scene.
The SBI team subsequently determined there was no danger from the device found. “They processed it and discovered that it was an inactive grenade with a fuse,” Chief Watson said. Even though the grenade had a “detcord,” a type of high-speed fuse, it contained no explosive material.
Where the grenade came from and why it was being transported in the vehicle remained a mystery Tuesday. “We’re looking to see as far as the relevance of that,” Watson said.
He declined to disclose details of any arrests or violations associated with the traffic stop, again citing the ongoing investigation.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.