Gander and the Murder of LAPD Bomb Squad Officers

Two LAPD bomb squad officers killed in a booby-trapped pipe bomb. Their deaths are linked to the deliberate destruction of Arrow Air 1285, a military chartered flight, that killed hundreds of Americans in Gander, Newfoundland.  An innocent man is convicted of their murder, sentenced to prison and commits suicide in 2009. 

(LOS ANGELES) – The deaths of two LAPD bomb squad detectives in February 1986 is linked to the destruction of Arrow Air 1285, a military charter flight, that crashed in Gander, Newfoundland, killing 256 Americans on December 12, 1985.

LAPD Bomb Squad Sergeant Arleigh McCree, age 46, and Officer Ronald Ball, age 43, his partner, were killed on February 8, 1986, when they were attempting to defuse a pipe bomb in the garage of Donald Lee Morse, a Black American Hollywood make-up artist.

The sophisticated pipe bomb, composed of a master and slave components, exploded in Morse’s garage. The officers were called to Morse’s home after a tip that Morse was involved in the shooting of Howard Smit, the Business Agent of Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Union Local No. 706, on February 4, 1986.

Morse a member of the union was fingered by John Inzerella, the President of Local 706 in a shooting incident.  Betsy Holt, a secretary and witness to the shooting, described the “assailant as a Latino who fired four or five shots from a pistol and then fled in a VW bug occupied by another person.”  Morse owned a .357 Magnum but he was a Black man with short hair and drove a Ford Van.  Despite these differences, a search warrant was issued for the weapon in the shooting, and Morse’s property was searched. The weapon was not found during the search.  LAPD officers conducting the search discovered two pipe bombs in Morse’s garage and called the LAPD Bomb Squad to the scene.

While examining the pipe bombs, “the officers determined they were booby trapped” and moved others away from the scene. As McCree attempted to defuse the master bomb, it detonated, killing him instantly and fatally wounding Officer Ball, who succumbed to his wounds at a local hospital several hours later.

There’s an argument that Morse was the ‘sacrificial lamb’ in the murder of the two LA Bomb Squad officers. The master bomb exploded when McCree attempted to use his wire cutters to cut one of the wires from the pipe bomb to a 9-volt battery.  McCree had used the wire cutter many times in the past.  McCree was a world-class bomb disposal expert, and his death at the hands of an alleged amateur bomb maker is highly questionable.

Donald Lee Morse with no military background in bomb disposal or making was a bona-fide bragger with a hot temper. Morse was convicted of the murder of the two LAPD officers, appealed the conviction; his sentence was reduced from life without the possibility of parole to 33 years to life for each death to be served consecutively, not concurrently.  He would have to serve a minimum of 66 years in prison. In effect, this was a death sentence.  Although parole was possible, Morse refused to admit that he made the bomb and given his skills, he didn’t have the technical capability to make the slave and master pipe bombs without killing himself in the process.

In the worst-case scenario, the bobby-trapped pipe bomb was set-up by government covert operatives to kill Arleigh McCree to prevent him from blowing-the-whistle on the deliberate destruction of Arrow Air 1285 in Gander, Newfoundland, and the deaths of hundreds of Americans, including 248 troopers from the 101st Airborne who were returning from a six-month tour as peacekeeping forces in the Sinai.

 

THE GANDER CRASH

Arrow Air 1285, a military chartered DC-8-63CF, carrying 101st Airborne troops returning from a peacekeeping mission with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai to Fort Campbell, KY, crashed and burned in Gander, Newfoundland on December 12, 1985. There were no survivors.  In a 5 to 4 split decision, the Canadian Air Safety Board (CASB) ruled icing and a stall caused the crash. In a minority report, the four professionals on the CASB concluded that the evidence supported a fire and explosion on the DC-8 as the probable cause.  The US agreed with the official icing hypothesis.

Les Filotas, PhD aeronautical engineer and member of the CASB, wrote a best-selling book about the deceit and dissent in the investigation of the crash; Joel Bainerman, Canadian-Israeli journalist, wrote about the cover-up of the Gander crash and its links to Iran-Contra; Don Devereux, journalist, wrote the crash was caused by a rouge CIA team and the deaths of two LAPD bomb squad officers linked to the crash; Charles Byers, manufacture of an incendiary device sold exclusively to the CIA, told about an aborted covert mission with a nuclear backpack and the deliberate destruction of Arrow Air 1285.  The loss of 248 military personnel on Arrow Air 1285 exceeded the 241 Marines killed in the terrorist attack in Lebanon on October 23, 1983.

Filotas confirmed that his notes showed a telephone call from Charlie Greenwell, Canadian TV reporter, on March 23, 1992: “Arleigh McCree was killed in Feb 86 while defusing a bomb.  According to CJOH-TV reporter, car rental receipts with his signature prove that McCree was in Gander in Jan. 1986 So the inference is that Canadian authorities asked him to investigate.”  A follow-up call to Greenwell in early 2017 was not helpful.  He had no memory of his call to Filotas and stated that he was in Ottawa at the time, far from Gander. Despite his denial, the possible connection of the RCMP as the source of the rental car report tip to Greenwell is not farfetched.  McCree conducted a workshop for the RCMP in June 1985.  The RCMP would have searched the airport grounds, looking for anything that could have been connected to a bomb on the aircraft. Did they find something that couldn’t be explained and contacted McCree to fly to Gander to investigate?

In the US, a retired LAPD Detective Captain wrote that the deaths of two LAPD officer (no doubt that he meant McCree and Ball) were connected to the Gander crash:

Retired LAPD Detective Captain posted comments on a Canadian website on February 11, 2017 (www.planecrashgirl.ca) stating that the death of two LAPD officers “involves the Gander crash directly”:

Robert Michael

 

Posted February 11, 2017 at 03:59

Greetings-

I am a retired Detective Captain from the Los Angeles Police Department. That is a long way from Gander, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran. I have investigated, reviewed and overseen investigations of thousands of violent crimes. I am very familiar with the propensity of governments to protect themselves and fight for the greater good. All government actions should stand an inquiry.

One important reminder is that all investigations have errors and I mean all. Those who pick errors miss the essence of facts. Many people died in the U.S. Two were my fellow officers and we believe their death involves the Gander crash directly [my emphasis].

There is not room to list all the information available but it is abundant relating to the Arrow Air 1285 Gander crash.

You are right to look at matters that differ from OFFICIAL declarations.

If you are still interested in truth you need not be an aircraft expert of any type. Google the following for a start:

 

 

Arrow Air 1285 Gander crash;

 

Arleigh McCree

 

 

Here is a link for consideration.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cia-linked-la-bomb-squad-murders-robert-o-dowd-1

Attempts to reach Michaels for an interview were not successful.

Don Devereux, Tempe, AZ, is a retired investigative reporter and long-time member of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) whose investigative work for the print media earned him two Pulitzer nominations. Devereux investigated the Arrow Air 1285 crash for several years for both the print media and TV series like “Investigative Reports” and “Unsolved Mysteries.” Devereux has followed the Arrow Air 1285 crash for over 30 years.

In a telephone call, Devereux told me that McCree could have caught a military fight from Norfolk to the Argentia Naval Air Station, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.  He based this on information from a retired Navy officer who said there were daily flights between Norfolk and Argentia, but the airfield was closed in 1973.  Devereux thought that it remained open until 1994.  Only the naval base remained opened until 1994.  Devereux said there were military bases on Newfoundland where McCree could have landed and then been picked-up by the RCMP.  There’s no question that McCree flew commercial from LA to Norfolk.  If the RCMP wanted McCree to look at evidence in their possession, then it would make sense for them to fly him from LA to Gander, a faster route then going through Norfolk subject to vagaries of military transport with no direct flights into Gander.

An alternative explanation provided by Devereux was the CIA invited a group of non-government experts to their facility in North Carolina to view physical evidence collected on the backside of the Gander airport. The RCMP may have wanted to release the physical evidence but photographs wouldn’t have been a problem.

Devereux told me that the CIA’s Site 38 is in North Carolina, a short distance from Norfolk.  Devereux reasoned that the that the ‘good guys’ in the CIA wanted to bring in McCree and other outsiders to look over the evidence collected on the backside of Gander.  These outside experts could have flown into Norfolk and then been transported to North Carolina.

The use of the CIA site in North Carolina appears to be the most logical reason for McCree flying into Norfolk:  The US government had evidence (maybe limited to photographs) at Gander, had no clue what it was, and invited several non-government bomb disposal experts to the secured CIA facility in North Carolina to review the evidence.

McCree may have made a connection while viewing the evidence in North Carolina or even Gander.  Stopping off in Phoenix on the return trip to LA, McCree made a connection to something he saw in Byers’ museum and then confirmed it with Byers.  Once Byers told him that the CIA was the only customer, he knew that he found the answer and reported it in a written report to the CIA. McCree never suspected that the US government blew-up the aircraft but could have reasoned that Byers’ deadly incendiary material found its way into the international arms market and into the hands of terrorists.

INCENDIARY DEVICE SOLD TO CIA

Support for the use of an incendiary device and an explosion on Arrow Air 1285 comes from a conversation in January 1986 between McCree and Charles “Chuck” Byers, President of Accuracy Systems Ordinance Corporation, Phoenix.  Both men were friends, had common interests in munitions and guns and knew each other for several years.

Devereux reported a discussion between Byers and McCree in January 1986. In a series of interviews with Byers in 2016, we confirmed the connection that McCree made to the Arrow Air 1285 crash.

On the shelves in a company office, Byers had arranged a display of the various specialized products being manufactured and marketed, mostly going to defense, intelligence, and law enforcement customers.

While walking past the display, McCree suddenly stopped and reached out to pick up one object.

Obviously startled by what he held in his hands, he exclaimed, “This is what brought down a plane we’re investigating!”

The object in question was a transparent plastic packet with three sealed pockets.

Two of the pockets contained chemical compounds—one white, one black—which when combined became highly volatile, and the third pocket included a folded aluminum foil cup in which to mix them.

Once combined, the chemicals could be ignited by a simple burning fuse, by a trigger, or even by remote control.

The device had various names in the trade; a “flash” compound, an “incendiary trigger,” a fire starter.”

Detonated in association with such inflammatory materials as napalm, it very quickly could produce one hell of a conflagration, easily sufficient to bring down an aircraft.

McCree asked Byers who had been buying the device.

Byers answered that he only had one customer for it, indicating that the single purchaser was, in fact, the Central Intelligence Agency.

McCree told Byers that he was going to be writing a report about his discovery at Byers’ place and that someone would be getting back to him about it.

The discussion was witnessed by Todd Cremeans, an employee of Accuracy Systems.

THE PIPE BOMBS

The description of the two pipe bombs in the California Court of Appeal’s People v. Morse (1992) supports that William Lee Morse couldn’t have made these bombs and would likely have killed himself in attempting to make them:

About an hour after the explosion Detective Weller, second in command to the deceased, Officer McCree, arrived at the scene and took charge of the investigation. Noticing Officer Ball’s camera among the garage rubble, he had the film flown to Parker Center, developed, and the prints returned to him. Based upon these photographs and the evidence recovered at the scene, Detective Weller made replica bombs.

Detective Weller described the bombs as follows: the master bomb was 12 inches long and the secondary, or slave bomb, 9 inches long. Inside of each were four 12-gauge Remington Peters number six-shot cartridges, taped together. Pyrodex, a low-grade explosive, filled the pipe cavity. A small light bulb filament was inserted in the pyrodex. A wire from the bulb fed through a drilled hole and connected to two 9-volt batteries taped to the outside of the master bomb. The pipes were capped at each end. A wood block affixed to the master bomb had the triggering mechanism, a folded piece of metal and a soldered wire. Wire connected the triggering mechanism to the batteries. A safety device consisting of a piece of rubber tubing covered part of the triggering mechanism. Black nylon fishing line was tied to the triggering device. Bungee cords were wrapped around each bomb.

The bungee cords were designed to attach the bombs to a car or some other object. When the car moved the nylon fishing line would become taut, [2 Cal. App. 4th 635] bend the piece of metal, cause contact with the soldered wire, switch the batteries on, emit current to the light bulb filament, heating it, and the heat would ignite the pyrodex causing detonation. The linked bombs would both explode. If one bomb failed, the other would still explode.

Detective Weller testified that the bombs had a single function: to kill people. Unlike time or command bombs these relied upon the movement of human victims to detonate them. Unlike some explosives, these bombs were designed to fragment and explode shrapnel.

The investigation showed the following: a roll of nylon fishing line found in appellant’s garage matched that used on the bomb’s triggering mechanism; inside appellant’s van were two 9-volt batteries and a bungee cord, both similar to those used on the bombs; in appellant’s kitchen, on a closed cabinet shelf, concealed in a sealed three-pound coffee can was a container of Pyrodex; the explosive material in the bombs was pyrodex; a bomb-making book, “The Anarchist Cookbook” was found in appellant’s den; fibers removed from the exploded bomb tape matched the gold carpet in appellant’s house; both the slave and master pipes had been threaded by a Tred-o-Matic machine whose four-jaw vise had left tool marks on both pipes; that Tred-o-Matic machine was about two blocks from appellant’s house in a Snyder-Diamond hardware store; the metal plate portion of the bomb triggering device had tool marks which matched pliers found in appellant’s garage; appellant’s fingerprints, and only his, were found on the three-pound coffee can, the pyrodex container, the garage cabinet, and on cans in that cabinet; his fingerprints were found on the cover of “The Anarchist Cookbook” (as were his brother’s) and on pages 113-114, beginning the chapter entitled “Explosives and Booby Traps.”

Information from a bomb disposal expert supports that it’s possible to booby trap a circuit so that if a wire is cut to a pipe bomb, the device will explode: “The most straight forward type of circuit that cannot simply be interrupted at any point in the circuit is called a collapsing circuit. There are several ways to build a collapsing circuit, including using relays, semi-conductors, and various other electrical engineering techniques. I won’t explain this further. Suffice to say it’s possible to booby trap a circuit so that if a wire is cut, the device will function.”

You don’t have to understand the physics on how this can be done, but the motive to murder Arleigh McCree is clear.  McCree made the connection of the destruction of Arrow Air 1285 to an incendiary device sold exclusively to the CIA.  He reported his finding to the government without realizing that he was now a threat to those who perpetuated the death of hundreds of Americans in Gander. Were the pipe bombs constructed with a collapsing circuit so that the second McCree cut the wire, the master bomb exploded and the detonation had nothing to do with McCree’s wire cutters?  McCree could have had the pipe bombs removed from the garage and safely detonated but chose not to. Did someone instruct him to not destroy the pipe bomb, but determine how it was made and report his findings?

From Detective Weller’s description of the pipe bombs, it’s reasonable to conclude that Morse didn’t make the master and slave bombs.  He didn’t have the requisite bomb-making experience without killing himself in the process and, if a collapsing circuit triggered the detonation and there’s reason to think that this and not McCree’s wire cutters (no doubt used by him in the past) triggered the detonation, then William Lee Morse didn’t make these pipe bombs but someone with extensive EOD experience did.

The California Appeals Court reported that Morse told the Superior Court he let a man and woman use his garage.  The woman was never identified by Morse.  Years after his conviction for the murder of two LAPD Bomb Squad officers, Morse told Sydney Sherman, that he was befriended by a man who was said he was a demolition expert at the studio and moonlighted from his job on the LAPD Bomb Squad.  He used his father’s name to hide his identity since the LAPD didn’t allow him to moonlight for the studio.  During a visit to Morse’s home, his friend asked him if he could use the workbench in the garage to build a “device he needed for the studio.” It was nothing but a pack of lies.  Morse who was in prison for life had no reason to lie about his ‘friend’ but was gullible and believed the moonlighting story.

Morse was on trial for murdering two cops. It would be logically for Morse to tell his defense attorney about the demolition expert who was moonlighting from the LAPD Bomb Squad and asked to use his garage to build a “device.”

Years later Morse told Sid Sherman, a friend and a retired Hollywood film executive, that he identified the man as Ron Ball while doodling on a photo of Ball, putting facial hair on his face. But, there’s a major discrepancy in Morse’s story.

LAPD Bomb Squad officers are prohibited from growing a beard. If this ‘friend’ told Morse that he was moonlighting from his full-time job as an LAPD Bomb Squad officer, then this was nothing more than a cover story to gain access to Morse’s garage. Morse swallowed the lie ‘hook, line and sinker.’

Morse was desperate to identify his friend.  He had been in prison for years with little contact to the outside world.  He was wrong about Ron Ball. Ball knew it was a felony to construct a pipe bomb and there’s no way that he would risk his job and possible imprisonment to make a pipe bomb. The California Court of Appeal opinions in

People v. Morse (1992) stated after disassembling the slave bomb, it was Officer Ball who “took a small portion of the powder that had been removed from the one dismantled pipe bomb, went outside, put the powder in a large flower pot, and put a match to it. It burned rapidly.” So, Ron Ball knew they were dealing with a live explosive pipe bomb, a bomb he never saw before arriving at the North Hollywood garage.

Morse told this story to Sherman; he knew that he was in prison for life, maybe even paranoid about searching for clues for the person who told him that he was moonlighting from the LAPD Bomb Squad and just wanted to use his garage for a studio project.

What should have been obvious to Morse’s jury was that he didn’t have the technical ability to construct the two pipe bombs described by the LAPD in court testimony and build a collapsing circuit to fool a demolition expert like McCree who has used his uncoated wire cutters many times in the past without incident. Morse died in prison in 2009 so there’s no way to ask him any follow-up questions.

Sherman wrote that the trial judge did not allow the jury to hear evidence that the LAPD, who had a search warrant for a pistol and ski mask used by the assailant in the non-fatal shooting of Howard Smit, had a tip that a bomb was in Morse’s garage.”  The weapon used to shoot the union business manager, the VW used as the escape vehicle, and the person who called the LAPD with a tip about the bomb were never found.

Arleigh McCree knew what caused the Arrow Air 1285 crash and after he filed his report with the government, he was targeted for murder, but the killer couldn’t place a bomb under his car or kill him with a gunshot since that would have triggered a crime scene investigation and possibly led to Charles Byers, who sold the incendiary device to the CIA. No, the preferred way for the murder of McCree was in the line of duty.

Arleigh McCree was not Ron Ball’s designated partner.  Another bomb squad detective switched his duty assignment with McCree.  Was this a set-up?  There was no reason for the LAPD to question this arrangement since from their investigation, the guilty party was William Lee Morse, the owner of the property.  LAPD had no information on McCree’s connection to the crash of Arrow Air 1285 and a copy of his report to the CIA, or least, there’s no public admission of McCree’s work for the CIA.  McCree did keep a copy of his report but the government was very quick to remove it.

CIA AT MCCREE’S HOME

Devereux followed-up with an interview with Mrs. Edie McCree, the wife of Arleigh McCree, who said “their home in [the] San Fernando Valley was placed under LAPD guard on the day her husband died. The security was necessary because her husband was thought to have a copy of a top-secret report in his possession and authorities wanted to be sure that it didn’t get lost or misplaced in the confusion.”

On the day of the funeral and before McCree was buried, four men showed up to retrieve a classified document.  Mrs. McCree told Devereux that “two were ex-military officers…both with apparent links to the CIA, as she recalled.”  The third man was an LAPD representative and the fourth man a locksmith.  She was excluded from the room while the search went on for several hours.  Mrs. McCree said they left without telling her what they found.

In my telephone interview with Devereux in July 2016, he said that that McCree and his partner could have used a robot to remove the pipe bomb and destroy it without exposing themselves to harm.  Devereux thought that the CIA may have asked McCree to not destroy the pipe bomb found in a garage in North Hollywood but to disarm it and report his findings.

The quick response of the CIA in retrieving documents and/or computer disk from McCree’s home lends support to the agency’s interest in obtaining a classified document in his possession.  There is no authority for anyone to keep a classified document in their residence.  McCree knew the rules on safeguarding and handling classified documents.  Unknown to McCree, the report filed with the government more likely than not was classified.

Would McCree have blown-the-whistle on the CIA’s involvement in the crash of Arrow Air 1285?  Those involved in this illegal action had to consider the risk of exposure.

After visiting Byers’ plant in January 1986, McCree filed a report with the CIA that identified the incendiary device sold to the CIA that caused the fire and explosion on Arrow Air 1285.  McCree and Ron Ball are killed in early February 1986. The LAPD assigns a police officer to guard McCree’s home.  Was that unusual?  Probably not.  A senior officer is killed by a pipe bomb.  Was there intent to kill him and his family? Just to make sure, LAPD assigns a police officer to stand guard outside the home.  But, the CIA’s search of McCree’s home was not routine and lends support that McCree worked for the CIA, probably on special assignments like investigating the crash of Arrow Air 1285. Was it just a coincidence that a McCree, a witness to the CIA’s involvement in the Arrow Air 1285 crash, was killed and now was no longer a threat to blow-the-whistle? If so, then it was a very fortunate coincidence for the government.

CIA DOES NOT RESPOND TO FOIA

I submitted a FOIA request to the CIA for all records relating to Arleigh McCree for the years 1984 through 1986 on August 19, 2016.  The CIA acknowledged receipt the FOIA media request (FOIA F-2016-02460) by letter, dated October 6, 2016. Mr. Michael Lavergne, Information and Privacy Coordinator, Central Intelligence Agency stated that “our officers will review your request and will advise you should they encounter any problems or if they cannot begin the search without additional information.”

CIA guidelines provide that the agency takes exemptions under FOIA to protect sources and methods and national security information, and that the CIA will “neither confirm or deny the existence of records on CIA operational activities and confidential or covert relationships.”

I can only assume that the failure to respond to the FOIA concerns a national security matter.

Robert J. O’Dowd

Salem-News.com (Salem, OR)

726 Chatham Road

Somerdale, NJ 08083-2441

 

 

March 25, 2017

RE:  F-2016-02460 and CIA letter of October 3, 2016

 

 

Mr. Michael Lavergne

Information and Privacy Coordinator

Central Intelligence Agency

Washington, DC 20505

 

 

Dear Mr. Lavergne:

It has been over six months since you informed me of the receipt of my August 19, 2016 FOIA request for all documents relating to Mr. Arleigh McCree, former Chief, LAPD Bomb Squad, for the years 1984, 1985 and 1986.

In your October 3, 2016 letter, you stated that “our officers will review your request and will advise you should they encounter any problems or if they cannot begin the search without additional information.”  I have not heard from any CIA officials in the interim period.

CIA guidelines provide that the agency takes exemptions under FOIA to protect sources and methods and national security information, and that the CIA will “neither confirm or deny the existence of records on CIA operational activities and confidential or covert relationships.”

Arleigh McCree’s death in November 1986 and his visit and discussion with Charles Byers, President of Accuracy Systems Ordinance Corporation, New River, AZ, raised questions about the CIA’s possible involvement in the crash of Arrow Air 1285, a chartered military DC-8CF, involving the deaths of 248 Airborne troops and 8 crew members in Gander, Newfoundland, on December 12, 1985.

When questioned by McCree about the incendiary device on display at the plant, Byers told him that the incendiary devices manufactured by his company were sold exclusively to the CIA.  According to Byers, McCree told him the incendiary device was involved in a recent aircraft crash.  No mention was made of Arrow Air 1285, but McCree told Byers that he would be interviewed by federal agents.  This discussion in Byers’ plant took place several weeks before McCree and Ron Ball, his LAPD bomb squad partner, were killed in a bobby-trapped pipe bomb in North Hollywood, CA.

After McCree’s funeral, his widow was visited by four men who requested access to her husband’s files to search for a classified document, according to Don Devereux, retired investigative reporter.  The search was conducted without a search warrant with the door closed and locked, preventing Mrs. McCree’s to observe the search activity.  These men left with whatever document they were looking for.  There is no authorization for anyone to keep classified material in their home.  Was the document retrieved from Mrs. McCree’s home a copy of the report filed by McCree on the Arrow Air 1285 cash?  If so, McCree’s report linking an incendiary device sold exclusively to the CIA may have been the motive for his death.

Absent a response to my FOIA, I can only assume that the failure to respond concerns a national security matter, involving Mr. McCree.

 

Sincerely

ROBERT J. O’DOWD

 

Encl

cc: CIA Office of Inspector General

Don Devereux followed-up with one man who confirmed the search for a top-secret document but declined to say whether they found it or the topic but did say that it had nothing to do with Gander; a Phoenix private investigator and friend of Devereux, followed up with second man who said they were looking for dangerous munitions.  Apparently, they hadn’t gotten their stories straight. Devereux was suspicious that they were looking for McCree’s Gander Report.

BOOBY-TRAPPED PIPE BOMB OR FAULTY WIRE CUTTERS?

The evidence from the California Court of Appeals in People V. Morse (1992) supported that the pipe bombs were not booby-trapped but the explosion was caused by an accidental electronic contact from wire cutters from McCree’s tool kit. Following McCree’s and Ball’s deaths, the LAPD authorized the purchase of “nine bomb squad tool kits” so that items could be electronically coated to prevent accidental electronic discharge in the future. However, an EOD expert advised that “it’s possible to booby trap a circuit so that if a wire is cut, the device will function. This is a much rarer type of device, but one that EOD tech’s still train to handle.”

Howard Smit (1911-2009), the Business Agent of Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Union Local No. 706, was shot and wounded by a .38 caliber pistol on February 4, 1986.  Betsy Holt, a witness, described the shooter as a Latino with long hair sticking out of a ski mask who fled the scene in a VW bug.

Donald Lee Morse, age 39, a Black man, and film and television makeup artist, denied knowing the explosives were in the home.  Morse was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Arleigh McCree, age 46, and Officer Ron Ball, age 43. Based on an Appeals Court ruling in 1992, the conviction was reduced to 2nd degree murder.  After the Appeals Court decision, Morse died in prison in 2009.

Were McCree and Ball killed by a sophisticated pipe bomb planted in Morse’s garage intended to kill McCree? Getting access to Morse’s garage, home and vehicle would not be a difficult for covert operatives. Morse’s attorney had no idea that McCree filed a report with the government on finding the incendiary device that destroyed Arrow Air 1285.  Charles Byers confirmed that he never called Morse’s attorney to tell him about his conversation with McCree. Byers never connected the dots.

The stakes were very high.  If McCree blew-the-whistle by publicly connecting Byers’ incendiary device to Arrow Air 1285, it could have literally brought down the Reagan and Bush administration.

In a memo from Don Devereux, dated September 2, 2016, entitled “Gander Crash Addenda,” Devereux agreed that Morse may have constructed some basis type pipe bombs but didn’t have the technical capability to construct the sophisticated pipe bombs found in Morse’s garage; Morse bragged about his capability to make pipe bombs, and this information could have been obtained by LA area intelligence operatives, which could have led “someone with very high-level explosive expertise finding the relatively primitive bomb material in Morse’s garage, and adding a fatal booby-trap to one of them.  The speed of the recovery of classified material from McCree’s residence after his sudden and his unexpected death suggests “arrangements already in progress.”

McCree’s report could have marshalled covert intelligence resources necessary to set-up Morse, a Black man with a penchant for bragging about his bomb-making capability, and killed the very man who could have connected the CIA to Arrow Air 1285. Absent a death bed confession by a covert operative, there’s no way to prove it.

The evidence from the California Court of Appeals in People V. Morse (1992) supports that the pipe bombs’ explosion was caused by an accidental electronic contact from wire cutters from McCree’s tool kit. Following McCree’s and Ball’s deaths, the LAPD authorized the purchase of “nine bomb squad tool kits” so that items were electronically coated to prevent accidental electronic discharge in the future.

Donald Lee Morse denied knowing the explosives were in his garage.  Morse was convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of Arleigh McCree and Officer Ron Ball. Based on an Appeals Court ruling in 1992, the conviction was reduced to 2nd degree murder.

Sid Sherman, a Hollywood film executive and friend of Donald Lee Morse, wrote a 23-page self-published pamphlet about Morse, entitled “Sirlord”, the nom de plume used by Morse.  Morse told Sherman that he let someone named Tim use his garage: “Tim was a demolition expert at the studio who I knew was moonlighting from his job at the LAPD Bomb Squad.  I found out he used his father’s name, Tim, to hide his identity because his department frowned upon their personnel moonlighting. He had come to my house to teach me what someone who was shot in the face would look like.  While visiting, he asked if he could use my workbench to build a device he needed for the studio.”

The shooting of Howard Smit on February 4, 1986, and a tip led LAPD officers

with a search warrant for the pistol to Morse’s home on February 8th.  Betsy Holt witnessed the shooting and said that the assailant was Latino with long hair who wore a ski mask and drove away in a VW bug.  Morse was a Black man with short hair who drove a Ford Van and owned a .357 Magnum, not a .38 caliber pistol, the weapon used to shoot Smit.  The police never found the .38 pistol and the VW bug, but did find a pipe bomb in Morse’s garage. Morse was arrested and subsequently tried and convicted for murder of the two LAPD Bomb Squad officers. The LAPD traced the pipe bombs to a nearby hardware where they were cut and threaded.  No one at the store recognized Morse’s photo (Sherman, “Sirlord”).

Morse told Sherman that he was doodling on a picture of Ron Ball in the newspaper and “when he put facial hair on his picture I stared in disbelief at the image on the paper.  I saw a man who had befriended me at work whom I knew as “Tim.” Morse went on to explain “that must have been the reason they were so casual about defusing the thing…Ron had built it.  But, the question is who booby-trapped it, and put it in my garage?  And Why?”

The California Appeals Court opinion said that Morse told the Superior Court that he let a man and woman use his garage. Who were these people?  Morse had to know their names.  There is no mentioning of Tim, the LAPD Bomb Squad detective moonlighting for the Hollywood studio in the Appeals Court discussion of the facts.  Why wouldn’t Morse tell this story to his defense attorney?  He’s on trial for murdering two police officers.  He’s not going to cover-up for a moonlighting cop, if his life is on the line.

It makes no sense for Ron Ball to build a sophisticated pipe bomb in Morse’s garage, Ron Ball would have known that building a pipe bomb was a felony and he would have no reason to risk his job and criminal charges.

It’s within reason for Ball to have used Morse’s garage to work on a studio project.  Unknown to Ball and McCree, CIA operatives could have planted a bobby-trapped bomb pipe bomb in Morse’s garage with the intend of killing McCree before he became suspicious and blew-the-whistle on the deliberate destruction of Arrow Air 1285, and the possible connection to the CIA.

Getting access to Morse’s garage, home and vehicle would not be a problem for covert operatives. Morse’s attorney had no idea that McCree called the government to report he found the device that destroyed Arrow Air 1285.  Byers confirmed that he never called Morse’s attorney to tell him about his conversation with McCree in January 1986. He never connected the dots.  The stakes were very high.  If McCree blew-the-whistle by publicly connecting Byers’ incendiary device to Arrow Air 1285, it could have literally brought down the Reagan and Bush administration.

A jury convicted Morse of two counts of first degree murder, one count of reckless or malicious possession of a destructive device, and found true both alleged special circumstances: multiple murder and murder by destructive device. Morse was sentenced to state prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Did Donald Lee Morse’s blabbering about bomb making and toying with the idea of making a bomb have unknowingly set himself up as a patsy, which led to the deaths of officers McCree and Ball and his conviction of the murders of these two officers?

 

THE PIPE BOMBS

The California Court of Appeals’ opinion in People vs. Morse (1992) reported that:

The investigation showed the following: a roll of nylon fishing line found in appellant’s garage matched that used on the bomb’s triggering mechanism; inside appellant’s van were two 9-volt batteries and a bungee cord, both similar to those used on the bombs; in appellant’s kitchen, on a closed cabinet shelf, concealed in a sealed three-pound coffee can was a container of Pyrodex; the explosive material in the bombs was pyrodex; a bomb-making book, “The Anarchist Cookbook” was found in appellant’s den; fibers removed from the exploded bomb tape matched the gold carpet in appellant’s house; both the slave and master pipes had been threaded by a Tred-o-Matic machine whose four-jaw vise had left tool marks on both pipes; that Tred-o-Matic machine was about two blocks from appellant’s house in a Snyder-Diamond hardware store; the metal plate portion of the bomb triggering device had tool marks which matched pliers found in appellant’s garage; appellant’s fingerprints, and only his, were found on the three-pound coffee can, the pyrodex container, the garage cabinet, and on cans in that cabinet; his fingerprints were found on the cover of “The Anarchist Cookbook” (as were his brother’s) and on pages 113-114, beginning the chapter entitled “Explosives and Booby Traps.”

McCree’s report to the government on the link of the incendiary devices manufactured by Charles Byers could have marshalled covert operatives to set-up Morse, a Black man with a penchant for bragging about his bomb-making capability, and killed the very man who could have connected the CIA to Arrow Air 1285. Absent a death bed confession by a covert operative, there’s no way to prove it.

In a memo from Don Devereux, dated September 2, 2016, entitled “Gander Crash Addenda,” Devereux agreed that Morse may have constructed some basis type pipe bombs but didn’t have the technical capability to construct the sophisticated pipe bombs found in Morse’s garage; Morse bragged about his capability to make pipe bombs, and this information could have been obtained by CIA intelligence operatives, which could have led “someone with very high-level explosive expertise finding the relatively primitive bomb material in Morse’s garage, and adding a fatal booby-trap to one of them.  The speed of the recovery of classified material from McCree’s residence after his sudden and his unexpected death suggests “arrangements already in progress.”

Information from a bomb disposal expert supports that it’s possible to booby trap a circuit so that if a wire is cut to a pipe bomb, the device will explode: “The most straight forward type of circuit that cannot simply be interrupted at any point in the circuit is called a collapsing circuit. There are several ways to build a collapsing circuit, including using relays, semi-conductors, and various other electrical engineering techniques. I won’t explain this further. Suffice to say it’s possible to booby trap a circuit so that if a wire is cut, the device will function.”

The motive to murder Arleigh McCree is easier to understand.  McCree made the connection of the destruction of Arrow Air 1285 to an incendiary device sold exclusively to the CIA.  He reported his finding to the government without realizing that he was now a threat to those who perpetuated the death of hundreds of Americans in Gander.  If the pipe bombs were constructed with a collapsing circuit, the second McCree cut the wire, the master bomb exploded and the detonation had nothing to do with McCree’s wire cutters.

McCree was a world-class EOD expert.  He could have had the pipe bombs removed from the garage and safely detonated but chose not to. From Detective Weller’s description of the pipe bombs, it’s reasonable to conclude that Morse didn’t make the master and slave bombs.  He didn’t have the requisite bomb-making experience to construct these bombs without killing himself in the process and, if a collapsing circuit triggered the detonation and it’s possible that this and not McCree’s wire cutters (no doubt used by him in the past) triggered the detonation, then William Lee Morse didn’t make these pipe bombs but someone with extensive EOD experience did.

Were McCree and Ron Ball murdered by a collapsing circuit to keep McCree from blowing-the-whistle on AR 1285?

McCree and Ball saw what appeared to be a single circuit hook-up from Detective Weller’s description. It’s reasonable to conclude that they never considered that an EOD expert had booby-trapped the pipe bomb circuit.  The California Appeals Court reported that Morse told the Superior Court he let a man and woman used his garage. There’s no mention of Tim, the, alleged LAPD Bomb Squad detective moonlighting for the Hollywood studio, in the Appeals Court discussion of the facts.

Why wouldn’t Morse tell his defense attorney about Tim, his friend, who worked for the studio?  He’s on trial for murdering two cops. It would be logically for Morse to tell his defense attorney about Tim who worked for the studio and asked to use his garage.  A follow-up by the defense attorney may have identified ‘Tim.’

Sid Sherman wrote that Ron Ball used his father’s name in moonlighting for the studio. There’s no reference in Sherman’s story confirming this allegation.  The California birth certificate for Ron Ball only shows his mother’s name. Efforts to identify Ron Ball’s father were unsuccessful.  The studio’s tax documents are no longer available. It’s conceivable that the father and son worked out an arrangement with the son paying the taxes and receiving payment for the work. But, this is nothing more than unsupported speculation. The only way that Morse’s story makes sense is that Ron Ball moonlighted for the studio under a false name, used his garage to construct studio-safe demolition materials, CIA operatives became aware of Ball’s moonlighting activities and bobby-trapped a pipe bomb without his knowledge.  That’s just too much to believe.

Morse was gullible in allowing someone who said he worked for the studio as a ‘moonlighting bomb squad detective’ to use his garage.  It cost him his life. The take-away for any police officer working for the CIA is to make sure your supervisor knows of your work and multiple copies of reports are kept in secured locations in case of your untimely death.

 

Robert O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter

Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the East Coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the federal government, half of that time with the Defense Logistics Agency. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. He survived three cancers and multiple other medical conditions linked to toxic radiation and chemical exposures in the Marines. He is a graduate of Temple University.  O’Dowd authored TREACHERY: Murder, Cocaine, and the Lucifer Directive and A Few Good Men, Too Many Chemicals: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines and Government Lies.  Both books are available from Amazon.

 

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