November 16, 2008
Posted: 09:32 PM ET
“We cannot confirm or deny.”
That is the phrase reporters are used to hearing from the typically tight-lipped FBI public information officer. Not this time.
In this case, three active FBI agents were given special clearance to speak publicly about the day in 2004 that a flash bang grenade went off while they were on assignment during a hostage stakeout. They say it could easily have killed one of them.
The three agents say they were sitting in their car, when the grenade went off without warning. All three agents say they suffer hearing loss, and the agent closest sustained other injuries, due to the unexpected explosion.
A flash bang grenade is considered a non-lethal weapon. When one is deployed, it emits a bright flash and a deafening bang, often used to shock and disorient the enemy. Flash bangs are widely used in the military, as well as by FBI. agents, and local law enforcement officers.
Pyrotechnic Specialties Inc. or P.S.I, of Byron, Georgia, is the company that manufactured the flash bangs in question. Earlier this year, a federal indictment against PSI alleged the company knew its flash bangs were defective, and even knew how to fix the problem, which would cost the company just $3.72 per grenade. But federal investigators say the company chose not to fix problem, and instead relabeled the faulty devices, and then sold them to local law enforcement agencies and to the FBI. One of them ended up in the hands of the three FBI agents I interviewed.
The criminal trial against the company is set for January 2009, and there are several civil cases still in the discovery phase. P.S.I, its CEO and other defendants in this case all pleaded not guilty, saying the charges against them are vague and/or confusing.
The one thing the agents expressed to me time and again was the shock and disappointment they felt that an American company could knowingly sell a defective product to its own servicemen and women.
One agent said, “We expect risks to come from the bad guys – The people who we try to protect the American people from. For those risks to come from an American company is just unconscionable for me. It’s infuriating.” Whether PSI is at fault is at the heart of each of these lawsuits.
But looking at the bigger picture, how common is it for American companies to cut corners on safety to save a few bucks? How thorough are regulations and oversight? When you see the “made in the U.S.A.” label, what does that mean to you?
In addition, we are interested in knowing of other cases where people have been injured by a flash bang either here or abroad.
Filed under: Abbie Boudreau
From around the web