June 22, 2018
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Police investigating improvised explosive device found in Brewer

By Dawn Gagnon and Ryan McLaughlin, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — Police on Friday continued to investigate the circumstances surrounding what one official called an improvised explosive device found the previous day on property owned by the Brewer Housing Authority.

The discovery forced the evacuation of housing authority offices and several apartment buildings.

Brewer police contacted the state fire marshal’s office while Bangor bomb squad officers also assisted in the investigation, Brewer police Capt. Chris Martin said Friday. The bomb squad’s explosives experts continued to analyze the device a day after removing it from the scene.

Investigators from the Bangor Police Department and the fire marshal’s office could not be reached for additional comment Friday night.

Martin would not comment on the specific materials found in the device but called it an improvised explosive device.

“Somebody made a homemade device which could’ve caused significant damage,” said Martin. “Some of the materials that were used are very unstable.”

The device was found shortly before 2 p.m. near Colonial Circle off Chamberlain Street by a Brewer Housing Authority employee, who subsequently called police.

Gordon Stitham, director of the housing authority, said the device consisted of firecrackers, an electronic component of some sort, and a light powdery substance in a small plastic pill bottle.

The incident forced the evacuation of 50 tenants and 16 housing employees. Once the Bangor bomb squad removed the device at 3:45 p.m., everyone was allowed to return.

Martin said the device easily could have gone off accidentally, and the fact that it was found in a residential area could have made things catastrophic.

“We need to make sure that this doesn’t happen again before somebody gets really hurt,” the police captain said.

Martin said police are handling the incident as a criminal investigation and a public safety concern. He noted that the device was so unstable it could have detonated without warning.

“It could’ve gone off with someone standing close by or maybe if a child had picked it up,” he said. “What I can tell you based upon what [Bangor’s bomb squad] told me is heat and static electricity, all these things could cause these things to go off.”

Police have not identified any possible suspects, Martin said.

“We’re trying to determine the origin and who is behind it,” he said. “We really want to keep people from getting seriously injured.”

As of Friday evening, no one had been charged or arrested in connection with the incident, Cpl. Paul Gauvin said.

Because of temperatures that were in the mid-80s Thursday, several ambulances and wheelchair-accessible vans were brought to the housing authority’s offices on Chamberlain Street to help tenants stay cool, Chuck McMahan, chief operating officer of Capital Ambulance, said Thursday. About 20 people were treated, he said.

McMahan said the ambulance service also borrowed wheelchairs to help tenants with limited mobility.

In addition, the housing authority provided water to those who had to evacuate, Martin said Thursday.

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