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Man in gas mask with grenade detained
October 02, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Alexander Kallis San Mateo resident Gilberto Masias was wearing a gas mask while driving his car in downtown yesterday that prompted a bomb squad response as the man also hand an inert grenade strapped to his chest.

Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal San Mateo resident Gilberto Masias was wearing a gas mask while driving his car in downtown yesterday that prompted a bomb squad response as the man also hand an inert grenade strapped to his chest.

A man with a penchant for wearing a gas mask while dressed in full camouflage military fatigues was detained in downtown San Mateo yesterday morning after a police officer saw that the man had a grenade strapped to his chest while driving his truck.

The incident blocked traffic at Fourth Avenue and San Mateo Drive for about an hour as police subdued the suspect after pulling him over in the crowded business district.

A bomb squad crew was called to the scene and determined that the grenade was hollowed out and posed no threat.

The man, 29-year-old Gilberto Masias from San Mateo, was issued an infraction for carrying the grenade after police lectured him at length about his habit of wearing the gas mask and unnecessarily scaring people in light of the mass killings in Aurora, Colo. in July.

He was detained on scene at about 9 a.m. and was freed to go at about 11 a.m.

Masias told the Daily Journal yesterday he would not have carried the grenade had he known it was against the law.

"I’m not going to carry the grenade anymore,” he said.

He asked police repeatedly, however, whether he would still be allowed to wear his gas mask.

Police advised Masias against wearing the mask "unless it’s Halloween,” one officer said.

Masias was also detained by police in 2010 after an incident at Peet’s Coffee downtown when he strolled into the bathroom and came out wearing the gas mask.

Patrons phoned police and Masias was detained by police as he strolled down B Street wearing the gas mask while riding an electric scooter. He was also carrying a grenade then, bought from an Army surplus store, that police considered to be a toy, according to a police report from Jan. 4, 2010.

Masias told the Daily Journal yesterday he was dressed in fatigues and wearing the gas mask to get an early start on celebrating Halloween, about a month away.

He currently works at a Halloween costume store and was asked by his boss to pick out a suitable costume to wear while working at the store.

Masias told the Daily Journal that he preferred to wear his own costume — the military getup with gas mask.

Downtown San Mateo police Officer Robert Anderson recalled running into Masias previously.

He told Masias on the scene yesterday that his costume can attract the wrong kind of attention.

"People are on edge,” Anderson said. "After the Colorado incident.”

Some of downtown was blocked off to traffic and some buildings were evacuated near where Masias was detained.

While some who work in the area were nervous that the grenade might actually detonate, others simply slipped under police tape, continuing on their way.

Masias was cited and released for possession on an inert grenade, an infraction.

Police are reminding the public to be mindful of the Halloween costumes they choose to don this year.

"Costumes with very realistic looking weapons can create fear and safety concern among the community members, and may provoke a response by law enforcement. At even a short distance, expert police officers may not be able to tell if a realistic-looking weapon is real or not,” according to a San Mateo police statement.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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