Capitol Police Missed Explosive Device In January Incident

Federal officers searching a suspicious pickup truck near the U.S. Capitol in January missed an explosive device that remained undetected behind the seat for three weeks, officials said yesterday.

Michael S. Gorbey, who was initially detained for carrying a loaded shotgun near the Capitol, is now facing charges of planning to set off a bomb, according to an indictment filed in D.C. Superior Court. U.S. Capitol Police are investigating how their top-rated bomb squad failed to spot the hazardous device.

The revelations evoked one of the nightmare scenarios that Congress has spent millions of dollars to avert since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The contraption in Gorbey’s truck, parked about two blocks from the Capitol, “could have caused serious injuries” if detonated, said Terrance W. Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms.

Sources familiar with the investigation said, however, that the device was not in imminent danger of exploding. It was identified in court documents as being made of a can of gunpowder duct-taped to a box of shotgun shells and a bottle containing buckshot or BB pellets.

The device was discovered during a second search of the vehicle in February by Capitol Police. The truck had been sitting in a government parking lot since being seized in January, authorities said.

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