Putnam County sergeant recovering after explosive device exposes officer to powdery substance

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. — Traffic stops are part of the job for law enforcement but the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said they’re one of the most dangerous things to do.


“This could’ve been a whole lot worse, it could have easily blown his hand off, damaged his face,” Colonel Joseph Wells said.

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Now Sgt. Ryan Owens is recovering after the sheriff’s office said an explosive device blew up and covered him in a chlorine powder.

It happened near Moseley Avenue and St. Johns Avenue. Colonel Wells said he spotted a PVC pipe commonly used to smoke meth. He had cause to search the car and it appeared to be sealed on both ends with a valve, so he set it back down.

“Within seconds later it exploded,” Colonel Wells said. “He loosened a valve that allowed two chemicals to join. One of which appeared to be powdered chlorine and the other some type of automotive fluid such as brake cleaner or brake fluid.”

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His vest took a bulk of the shrapnel that flew during the explosion. Colonel Wells said it was covered in the powder and was on his face as he breathed it in. He was sent to the hospital for several hours and went through extensive testing. Sgt. Owens is expected to be back on the streets soon.

“Somebody, good Lord looking over his shoulders didn’t allow this to go off in face or his hands,” Colonel Wells said.

Sixty-year-old Charles Legault is now facing charges of possessing an explosive device, aggravated battery on law enforcement office, and a weapons offense for having a firearm during a felony.

“Was intended to be left in a public place? And walked away from and exploded? We don’t know, he’s not cooperating,” Colonel Wells said.

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Colonel Wells said he believes the sergeant’s proactiveness stopped this device from going off somewhere else.

“Worst case scenario is this guy walks up, leaves it in a child playground, releases valve, and walks away and next thing you know we have injured children,” Colonel Wells said.

The sheriff’s office also said a large amount of crystal meth was found inside the car and additional charges are coming. Right now the suspect is being held without bond.

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