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    Authorities discourage 'Greek bombs'

    Easter often is marked by the explosion of homemade bombs. Church and police officials urge Tarpon Springs residents to refrain this weekend.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001


    TARPON SPRINGS -- After homemade bombs rocked the city last Easter, officials from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral and the Police Department are warning people not to set them off again this weekend.

    Some residents make and explode the devices, known locally as "Greek bombs," at Orthodox Easter, a tradition carried over from some Greek islands. Last year, in spite of the Police Department's promise of a crackdown, officials said the explosions were among the worst in recent memory.

    There were no reported injuries, but two young men were arrested and charged with throwing destructive devices. Another bomb, which police estimated was the size of a watermelon, shattered 13 windows in stores along Athens Street.

    Last year, Nicholas Tirikos and John A. Himonetos, both of Tarpon Springs and both 18 at the time, were arrested in separate incidents. They were charged with discharging a destructive device, Tirikos at Athens and Margos streets and Himonetos at Hope and Cross streets, police said. Both cases are still pending, according to court records.

    Police will add extra patrols this weekend and will arrest anyone they see setting off bombs, said Capt. Bob Kochen of the Tarpon Springs Police Department. Anyone arrested for setting off bombs can be charged with a third-degree felony.

    "We have a zero-tolerance policy for any and all bombs," he said.

    The bombs typically are made with cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll, gunpowder, duct tape, yarn and other materials. Some bombs have nails in them, said police, who are concerned that someone could be hurt or killed by the explosions.

    Last year at this time, people already had set off bombs. Kochen said he doesn't know of any bombs that have been set off so far this year, but he doesn't expected the quiet to last.

    "I think it's inevitable that it's going to happen," he said.

    The Rev. Tryfon Theophilopoulos, a priest at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, said he has told parishioners not to set off bombs and warned them that officers will arrest anyone they see setting off a bomb.

    "It's a very, very serious problem," he said. "We have given them warnings, crystal clear."

    A majority of the bombs are set off during a celebration early Sunday morning, following a midnight announcement that Christ has risen. Only a small percentage of those celebrating will have the bombs, police said.

    Most people observe Pascha, the Greek Orthodox celebration of Christ's resurrection, in a more reverent manner. A mournful service will take place late Saturday night. At midnight, priests at Greek Orthodox churches will light candles from which parishioners will light their candles.

    After the service, young people traditionally light firecrackers. Theophilopoulos said the firecrackers are tolerable, but bombs are not acceptable.

    "I don't condone those types of things," he said. "This is not becoming of a Christian celebration."

    - Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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