A 39-year-old probationer, who previously pleaded guilty to setting off an explosive device that triggered a SWAT team response near Tustin, pleaded not guilty Friday to touching off an explosion on New Year’s Day in the same general area.
Kevin Sean Welch was charged Friday with one felony count each of possession of a destructive device on a public street or highway, reckless or malicious possession of a destructive device or explosive in a public place passed by people, intent to unlawfully make a destructive device, and use of a destructive device with the intent to injure.
He was ordered held on $1 million bail pending a Jan. 15 pretrial hearing at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
An undercover Orange County sheriff’s sergeant was in an unincorporated area near Tustin at Wass Street and Newport Avenue about 7 a.m. Wednesday and heard a loud explosion, said Jaimee Blashaw, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies later found an improvised explosive device that had been ignited in a parking lot of medical offices near some homes in the area, she said.
The investigation led to Welch, Blashaw said, but did not elaborate on how detectives linked him to the crime.
Welch pleaded guilty in April 2019 to a single felony count of use of a destructive device with the intent to injure and was immediately sentenced to 292 days in jail, the amount of time he had served, for the crime that occurred in October 2018. He was also placed on five years of formal probation.
Defense attorney William Bruzzo could not be reached for immediate comment, but he said in April that his client was “basically a fireworks enthusiast. He pranked some people with a big firecracker.”
He said then that the plea bargain reached with prosecutors was “appropriate.”
“If we were in another time and place where we weren’t so afraid of people using explosives, he probably wouldn’t have gotten a fraction of this time. He clearly didn’t injure anyone. It was a prank. Nobody was injured and some property was damaged,” Bruzzo said last year.
As part of the plea deal, several other felony charges were dismissed related to incidents on Nov. 6 and Nov. 14, 2018, according to court records.
On the latter date, Orange County sheriff’s deputies were called just before 9 a.m. to a condominium in the 12700 block of Newport Avenue in an unincorporated area near Tustin where Welch blew up a chiminea-type object in a back patio of his yard, drawing SWAT officers, according to court records. Welch told investigators he “miscalculated the ingredients” in the explosive, according to court documents.
A probation officer wrote in a report filed Friday that Welch failed a drug test in September, and because of his most recent arrest should have his probation revoked.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: