SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A Disneyland employee Thursday pleaded not guilty in connection with two dry ice explosions that took place at the park on Tuesday.
Christian Barnes, 22, of Long Beach, was charged with one felony count of possession of a destructive device in a public place. He had his not guilty plea entered by a public defender assigned to the case.
“He loves his job, and he’s a wonderful kid,” the suspect’s grandmother, Flora Barnes, told reporters outside the courtroom.
On Tuesday, Anaheim officers responding to reports of a small bang were directed to a trash can, where they found two water bottles containing dry ice in a trash bag and vending cart, according to a statement by the District Attorney’s Office.
The incident took place around 5:30 p.m. near Mickey’s Toontown.
Barnes was taken into custody on suspicion of possessing a destructive device Tuesday night.
The first water bottle reportedly exploded when a female employee went to relieve Barnes from his shift just after 4 p.m. The blast took place when Barnes opened the cart, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
“All of a sudden you hear this huge pop and you see some stuff out of the trash can,” witness Treyson Brown said.
“The defendant is accused of then taking the second water bottle from the cart and walking away toward the employee break room. While passing through Toontown, Barnes is accused of placing the second water bottle containing dry ice in a trash can. He is accused of then leaving the immediate area,” the District Attorney’s Office said.
The area was evacuated as a precaution, but no damage was reported.
The District Attorney said that some people close to the explosion reported ringing in their ears, but it was unclear if the injuries were permanent.
“Its a destructive device, so it’s inherently dangerous to people and property as would be any other destructive device,” Deputy District Attorney Andrew Barnes said Thursday.
Barnes’ father, Raymond Barnes, said he doesn’t believe his son was trying to hurt anyone.
“He just, accidentally, not thinking, put some dry ice in a water bottle. Maybe just silly not thinking or just forgot the fact that the…if he put the top on, he may have just forgot the bottle might explode,” Barnes said. “Whatever it was, there was nothing sinister about it. He’s a good kid. Never been in any trouble.”
“We take matters like this very seriously and are working closely with local authorities,” said Suzi Brown, Disneyland Resort’s Director of Media Relations.
Officials said it’s possible Barnes, who was interviewed at the park after the incident, may have planted the water bottle as a prank. Authorities said they believe he was acting alone.
Barnes was initially being held on $1 million at the request of Anaheim Police, but the District Attorney reduced his bond to $500,000.
His attorney also requested that the judge bar media from covering the case, saying Barnes’ right to a fair trial could be jeopardized.
His pretrial hearing was scheduled for June 7.
If convicted, Barnes could face six years behind bars.