Booby trap found in San Jose resembles ones used in Vietnam War

David Louie Image
ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Booby trap found at a San Jose homeless encampment
A booby trap found at an abandoned homeless encampment in San Jose resembles ones used during the Vietnam War.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Firefighters in San Jose are being warned of a new on-the-job hazard -- a booby trap designed to impale or severely maim someone who trips and falls.

The discovery was made Sunday morning when firefighters were called to a fire at the site of an abandoned homeless encampment on Communications Hill.

The firefighter was not injured, but the design -- a two foot deep hole set with sharpened stakes -- was something that appeared to be designed to inflict serious injury.

"Punji spikes are a new booby trap that we've not seen before and takes the level of dangers that we face to a whole other level. Going forward with the closure of 'The Jungle' and the homeless individuals throughout the city, this is something we're asking our members to be keenly aware of to provide for their safety and the safety of those they're coming to serve," said Sean Kaldor, Vice President of Local 230 Firefighters Union.

The booby trap was similar to one used by Communist troops during the Vietnam War a half-century ago, disguised with a burlap cover.

"The nature of this kind of trap is clearly designed to hurt individuals. We don't know for certain if that was designed to hurt other people in the encampment, police department personnel, or fire department personnel. Regardless, they are a danger to everyone, and they don't discriminate against who they're going to hurt," said Kaldor.

Residents of Communications Hill disagree if the trap was aimed at humans or possibly at animals as a source of food for the homeless.

"I would say it was maybe more for something food-wise they were going to eat. I don't know. It could be anything really though," said San Jose resident Tyler MacKenzie.

"I think if you find one, there's probably more than one out there," said San Jose resident Joe Magliocco.

The city's homeless encampment manager says this is the first time he's aware of a booby trap at a homeless encampment. The fire department indicated since no one was hurt, and the creator will be difficult to pin down, no further investigation is expected.