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The sound of firework explosions is nothing new for residents of west Gilroy. But with the booms becoming more frequent, coupled with recent incidents, neighbors are more on edge than usual.

A homemade explosive device was found in the middle of the roadway on Santa Teresa Boulevard near Day Road on March 16, leading many residents to ponder on social media whether Gilroy is home to a growing number of “explosive hobbyists.”

The incident occurred nearly five months after a Gilroy man was arrested upon his release from the hospital for treatment of serious injuries to his right hand. In October 2020, investigators found a homemade explosives lab and “multiple” improvised devices during a search of Darren Dorrell’s Mantelli Drive home, according to police.

Dorrell remains in jail on $1 million bail. He next appears in court April 1 for a “felony advanced resolution” hearing. Dorrell also made an appearance in mental health treatment court in January, according to Santa Clara County Superior Court records.

Before this incident rocked the Mantelli Drive neighborhood, three young adult males were arrested in July 2020 after reportedly destroying a mailbox on the 9500 block of Rancho Hills Drive in northwestern Gilroy with an explosive device.

California penal code states that being in possession of a destructive device could result in up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Catching these suspects is a difficult task, police say.

Gilroy Police Sgt. John Ballard said the department receives reports of fireworks at all times of the year. Police rely on the public to help track down the violators, he said.

“The sound generated from fireworks travels far and is difficult to pinpoint,” Ballard said. “Unless an officer sees the violation, we rely on witnesses to identify the violators, or at least the residence where the fireworks are being ignited.”

Some residents of west Gilroy described the sounds to the Dispatch as a “war zone,” with “loud booms” occurring on a near nightly basis, scaring and angering neighbors.

Jessy Irwin Rubinstein said neighbors have speculated that the explosions are being caused by M-100s or larger. Some have reported seeing holes in the ground at Sunrise Park following the sounds of explosions.

“It seems like all of the time, windows are rattled, pets are scared, children are upset, and residents of the area are both fearful and annoyed at the disruption going on in the area,” Irwin said.

Residents are looking for answers.

“Those of us who live here deserve to know more about the threat facing our community, and what those who are here to protect and defend us are doing to deter this behavior,” Irwin said.

Memories of blazes caused by fireworks over the Fourth of July in 2020 are still fresh in residents’ minds. Nine fires were reported in Gilroy on July 4, two of which resulted in damages to structures, according to the Gilroy Fire Department.

“In just a few months’ time, when the rain disappears and drought conditions become more dire, these explosions and fireworks discharges could all too easily spark a fire that endangers thousands of lives and homes,” Irwin said.

In addition to calling the non-emergency line to report fireworks at 408.846.0350, witnesses can report fireworks by emailing [email protected].

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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