Honolulu Man Indicted Chemical Weapon PossessionOctober 1, 2020, 6:00 AM HST (Updated September 30, 2020, 10:04 PM)
A 20-year-old Hawai‘i man was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday with possessing and attempting to possess a chemical weapon and possessing an unregistered destructive device.
According to the indictment and other court documents, between approximately December 2019 and March 2020, Ethan Sandomire conducted extensive research into explosives, explosive devices, chemical and biological weapons, and related topics, and wrote privately about his plans for explosive and chemical attacks in and around Honolulu.
In early 2020, Sandomire ordered the materials to make a destructive device from multiple online vendors, which were then delivered to his residence, according to a state Department of Justice release. At or around the time of Sandomire’s arrest on March 29, 2020, the FBI seized the items that Sandomire had ordered online from a separate location, including, among other things: approximately 30 pounds of aluminum powder, approximately 30 pounds of ultra-pure potassium perchlorate, approximately 45 pounds of potassium perchlorate, multiple ignition systems, wireless firing systems, and victim-initiated tripwire systems.
On Feb. 24, 2020, Sandomire went to a hardware store in Honolulu and purchased items that, when combined, create chlorine gas, a toxic chemical, the DOJ said. That same day, Sandomire searched the internet multiple times for the blueprints and floor plans of a large residential apartment building centrally located in Honolulu (“Building A”). Building A has approximately 450 residential apartment units, several commercial units, and a multi-level grocery store.
Two days later, on Feb. 26, 2020, Sandomire visited Building A in person. Security camera footage showed Sandomire waiting outside the main lobby for someone to exit, then walking into the lobby before the doors closed, and taking the elevator to the sixth-floor parking area. He took pictures on his cellphone of structural support columns inside the parking garage that is located below Building A’s outdoor recreational area and lap pool. He also took pictures of a storage area and large air vents coming out of an air handler that serves a 16,000 square-foot space elsewhere in Building A.
Sandomire returned to Building A’s main lobby and asked for copies of the building’s floor plans from the front desk staff, which the staff member did not provide. He also visited the building developer’s office and took photographs of a physical model of Building A.
Sandomire’s personal computer contained a desktop note entitled “destroy [Building A]” by using chemicals and explosives, among other things, and numerous folders with extensive research into explosives, chemical weapons, biological weapons, improvised munitions, and similar topics. Some of the folders were entitled “building demolition,” “my attack plan,” “explosives,” and “bio warfare.” The folders contained digital versions of approximately 54 books about explosives and related topics. Sandomire’s computer also contained an instructional document titled “Advanced Chemical Weapons Design and Manufacture,” with the subtitle “Chemicals that Kill in 30 Seconds or your Money Back.”
The charges filed today include one count of possession of a chemical weapon, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not more than $250,000, and one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $10,000.
“My office will use the tools at its disposal to protect the community from those who possess destructive devices and chemical weapons. These kinds of cases underscore the importance of vigilant action by law enforcement to protect the public from the acquisition and use of materials that can cause devastating harm to our communities,” said Kenji M. Price, US Attorney for the District of Hawai‘i. “This is the second case this year brought by my office that involves a violation of the federal chemical weapons statute, and we will continue to vigorously pursue, and bring to justice, those who endanger our communities by violating this law.”
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Marc A. Wallenstein with the assistance of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.