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Security Guards Fired for Prank at Nuclear Lab

September 18, 1986

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) _ Two guards at a nuclear research center have been fired after a prank in which they fired blanks from high-tech laser-equipped weapons at a fellow guard, who answered with real bullets, officials said.

Two other guards at the Sandia National Laboratory were placed on unpaid leave following the incident, and the guard who fired the real bullets is undergoing counseling and will return to work on probationary status, Marilyn Mulhall, vice president of Advance Security Inc. of Atlanta, said Wednesday. The company has a $6.8 million contract to provide security for the lab.

One of the fired guards was wounded in the leg.

The disciplinary actions were taken because of ″gross errors in judgment″ exhibited by the five men, said Mulhall.

Guard Tim Brandt was asleep in his vehicle atop a hill overlooking the lab when the other guards, dressed in black jumpsuits, fired blank rounds from their laser-equipped weapons, according to an Alameda County Sheriff’s Department report.

Brandt, apparently believing he was under attack, squeezed off several shots from his gun.

Sandia spokesman Barry Schrader said the company will have no comment until the outcome of an investigation by the Department of Energy. Sandia, a subsidiary of AT&T Technologies Inc., is operated and funded by the department.

Sandia performs secret research on non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons for the department and works closely with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of two nuclear weapons design laboratories in the United States.

Mulhall identified the fired guards as Richard Via and Mark Dougherty. Guards Rick DeRosa and Jay Cobb are on unpaid leave of five to 10 days, and will be on probation when they resume their duties, she said.

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