DETROIT — A man who became the subject of a book called "The Radioactive Boy Scout" after trying to build a nuclear reactor in a shed as a teenager has been charged with stealing 16 smoke detectors. Police say it was a possible effort to experiment with radioactive materials.
David Hahn, 31, was being held Friday on a $5,000 bond in the Macomb County Jail after he was arraigned Thursday on felony larceny charges.
Clinton Township police Capt. Richard Maierle said Hahn denied the charges. A district court clerk on Friday said Hahn did not have an attorney. The Associated Press called the jail in an effort to speak to Hahn, but a sheriff’s spokesman said the jail does not give messages to inmates. His preliminary examination was scheduled for Aug. 13.
Investigators say Hahn was arrested Wednesday after a maintenance worker saw him stealing a detector from a ceiling in an apartment complex where he lived. They later found the other detectors in his apartment in the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township.
Police say that Hahn’s face was covered with open sores, possibly from constant exposure to radioactive materials.
Hahn learned that a small amount of a radioactive isotope could be found in smoke detectors during his experiments in the 1990s, according to a 1998 article in Harper’s Magazine that later expanded into a book by journalist Ken Silverstein.
Maierle said his department evacuated the apartment complex and called the state police bomb squad, which found no hazardous materials.
He said officials learned in January that Hahn had returned to the area after serving in the U.S. Navy.
"Because of his past, we were a tad bit concerned," he said, adding his department alerted the FBI when they found out he was back in Michigan. "We didn’t want any other radioactive sites to pop up."
Hahn’s first brush with authorities came in August 1994, after police stopped him during an investigation into neighborhood tire thefts. Officers found radioactive materials, chemicals, rocks, plastic and glass bottles and two exploded pipes in his car, Maierle said.
In a subsequent interview with a state health official, Hahn said he had been trying to produce energy and hoped it would help him earn his Eagle Scout badge, according to the Harper’s article. Hahn also acknowledged having a backyard laboratory in a potting shed at his mother’s home in Oakland County’s Commerce Township, the article said.
Authorities declared the structure a hazardous materials site and sealed it. Crews from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency led a Superfund cleanup in 2005 that included dismantling the shed and shipping its remains to be buried at a low-level radioactive waste site in Utah, the article said.
Hahn received a Scouting merit badge for atomic energy in 1991, the article said. Maierle said Hahn’s 1994 arrest was expunged in 1996. His arrest this week was reported by The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens.