Police warn hunters to avoid booby traps, 12 explosive trail cameras recovered after man loses fingers

(image source; Shutterstock/Keith Bell)
(image source; Shutterstock/Keith Bell)

Mark Sawaf, 39, was arrested in June of this year after authorities linked him to an improvised explosive device that severely injured another man in Harlan County, Kentucky. The injured man lost multiple fingers and suffered wounds to his chest after a booby-trapped trail camera exploded in his hands. The device had been rigged to explode when new batteries were inserted.

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Authorities initially discovered 2 more IEDs mounted inside trail cameras near a private trail at the end of Red Dog Road, but have since found another 10 hidden in wooded areas of Harlan County. A joint investigation between the ATF and Kentucky State Police tied Sawaf to the bombs after authorities searched his trash and discovered explosives, wire, and other materials matching the detonated device. A warranted search of his home uncovered pieces of trail cameras, explosive material, detonators, and fuses. Authorities also discovered a note reading “broken camera for a broken soul.” According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Sawaf told authorities that he had planned to leave the note with one of his trail cameras hoping someone would steal it.

Sawaf did not own the property where the explosives were recovered. He had been confronted by the property owners for trespassing sometime before the first injury was reported. While in federal custody, Sawaf agreed to lead officials to the remaining devices hidden in the woods. While walking along the wooded trail, Sawaf attempted to escape and was shot dead by Lexington Fire Investigator Captain Brad Dobrzynki.

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Authorities do not know if all of his booby traps have been accounted for. They have released a public safety warning advising anyone in the wooded areas of Harlan County to avoid and report any unusual trail cameras or devices attached to hunting stands. If any suspicious devices are discovered, the public should contact either Kentucky State Police Post 10 (606-573-3131) or the ATF (859-219-4500). Authorities encourage callers to include GPS coordinates of the item’s location whenever possible.

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