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Press Release

Navy Sailor Arrested for Stealing Grenades from Ship

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Pettit (619) 546-7972


SAN DIEGO – Gunner's Mate Second Class Aaron Booker was arraigned in federal court today on charges that he possessed 20 stolen concussion hand grenades that went missing from San Diego-based guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney.

Booker, who had been stationed in San Diego when the alleged crime took place, was taken into custody this morning at his new post in Great Lakes, Illinois by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The United States is seeking removal of Booker to face charges in San Diego.

According to a complaint, USS Pinckney personnel discovered 20 grenades missing from their storage crates during a routine inventory of explosives on February 8, 2017. Designated personnel are required to conduct regular temperature checks in the locker that houses the crates, but no personnel should have accessed the crates themselves outside of an inventory. Booker was a member of the ship’s Weapons Department, and between November 2016 and January 2017, he conducted temperature checks for that locker on five separate occasions. The United States alleges that Booker removed these grenades from their storage crate and transported them off the ship. He officially detached from the ship on February 14, 2017, at which point he left San Diego and drove to his new duty station in Great Lakes, Illinois.

On April 20, 2017, an off-duty law enforcement officer discovered a black backpack on the side of the road leaning against a guardrail on Interstate 15 in northwest Arizona. The bag was a standard military issued backpack with “GM2 BOOKER” handwritten on a tag inside the bag, and it contained 18 of the grenades that were missing from USS Pinckney. Law enforcement is searching for the two missing grenades.

According to the complaint, Booker acknowledged to investigators that he drove that route before reporting to his new duty station in early March. However, he provided conflicting statements related to if and how he had seen or touched the grenades.

“A backpack full of grenades on the side of the road is obviously extremely dangerous and could have had resulted in injuries or death,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman said. “The theft of explosives is a very serious offense, particularly if it is carried out by an insider with access to military weapons and secrets.”

“Navy sailors are trusted with maintaining dangerous and sensitive equipment onboard naval vessels to ensure the Navy is always prepared to protect and defend the interests of the United States,” said Belinda Saunders, Special Agent in Charge of the NCIS Southwest Field Office. “It is a violation of that trust for any service member to steal from the United States Navy for any reason. This case is particularly troubling given the explosive nature of what was stolen, which could have seriously injured others.”

Booker is scheduled to appear for a detention hearing in the Northern District of Illinois before he is transferred to San Diego.

DEFENDANT                                               Case No. 18MJ1873

Aaron Booker                                     Age: 31           Waukegan, Illinois


Possession of Stolen Explosives, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 842(h) and 844(a)(1)

Maximum penalties: 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine


Naval Criminal Investigative Service

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated April 24, 2018

Firearms Offenses
Press Release Number: CAS18-0424-Booker