MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — An explosive device that police say was designed to destroy an Oregon county prosecutor’s office instead blew out windows in a pre-dawn blast Wednesday that did little other damage.
The FBI said it was too early to say whether the blast in Jackson County was terror-related, but Medford Police Chief Tim George said he considered the explosion a domestic terror attack aimed at law enforcement.
No one was hurt when the device fashioned in part from a 5-gallon propane tank exploded. Police say it failed to fully detonate.
About 25 federal investigators from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Seattle and Portland were joining the effort to gather evidence about the explosive device, George said.
“The most important thing in these cases, as we’ve seen over the years, is the methodical collection of evidence,” George said. “I would bet the house on it, we are going to clear this case.”
After the explosion, a silver-colored propane tank, similar to those used for camping, lay dented on its side in front of the broken windows at the prosecutor’s office.
Two windows near the entrance were broken out of the one-story brick building across a quiet neighborhood street from the jail and courthouse. Yellow crime scene tape surrounded the building and evidence markers dotted the parking lot.
“The bomb squad on scene said had it detonated, there would have been devastation at the scene and the building would have been destroyed.” said Medford police spokesman Lt. Mike Budreau. “We believe there was something else attached to (the propane tank) that was intended to blow it up, but was not successful.”
No one was inside the building when the blast hit around 4:30 a.m.
When investigators arrived, the tank was burning, and it continued to burn until the propane ran out, police said.
Budreau said police were searching for a man who ran from an officer several blocks away, but it’s unclear if he had anything to do with the explosion.
George said there were no suspects and no indications of the motive. While the district attorney’s office regularly gets threats from people, none stand out as potentially related, he said.
“I think it is domestic terrorism, absolutely,” due to the type of explosive device and the intent to do heavy damage to the district attorney’s office, George said. “We don’t know what the message was. We don’t know what the intent was.”
Police withheld details of the explosive device, such as how it was detonated and what kind of explosive was used.
Police went house to house warning people to stay indoors and cleared a large area around the office out of fears there might be other explosive devices, but tightened the closed area after none was found.
The district attorney’s office was closed, with a skeleton crew working at another site, District Attorney Beth Heckert said. The courthouse was to reopen in the afternoon, and grand jury proceedings in unrelated cases were to resume Thursday.
George said authorities were making a point of not allowing the explosion to disrupt their regular duties.
Tim Fought and Terry Petty contributed to this report from Portland, Ore.
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