L.A. buildings emptied after explosive devices discovered

Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad officers gather at the site where police arrested a man after discovering explosive material in his car and potential explosive devices in his apartment Wednesday May 15, 2013 in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Nick Ut

Updated 9:56 PM ET

LOS ANGELES A police bomb squad detonated 17 homemade explosive devices found in an apartment on Wednesday after officers spotted an explosive liquid in a man's car during a routine traffic stop, authorities said.

Robert Wilson, 29, was booked on felony possession of a destructive device, police Sgt. Rudy Lopez said. Authorities said there were no signs he planned to use the devices. They believe he acted alone and had no apparent link to terrorism.

Wilson was described as a "hobbyist, lone wolf, tweaker" on probation for a weapons violation, said Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department's counter-terrorism and special operations bureau. A small amount of methamphetamine was also found in his apartment.

"He's not in any federal databases, not associated with any groups or gangs," Downing said. "He's just kind of a loner and it was probably more experimental."

Wilson built the explosives because he was curious about them, Sgt. Frank Preciado said.

The bomb squad went to an apartment complex in the Palms neighborhood of west Los Angeles after officers stopped Wilson for improper vehicle registration on Tuesday night and spotted a suspicious clear liquid, Lopez said. A bomb squad analysis showed it had explosive contents.

Officers also found a .45 Colt handgun and narcotics in the car. That discovery prompted the search of the man's apartment. The complex and three surrounding buildings were evacuated, and several blocks were sealed off.

Officers found explosive devices — primarily pipe bombs and their component parts in various stages of construction, Downing said.

They detonated them on a nearby closed-off street behind a bunker.

Residents were directed to a nearby shelter during the evacuation that lasted throughout the day.

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