LAPORTE – We are learning more about an explosive device found in a backpack at the LaPorte County Fair.
Police say it was “non-mechanical” but still dangerous and that they believe the suspect was planning on detonating it in the crowd.
3 teenagers are in custody.
All are 16-years-old and from LaPorte.
One is charged with making the device, another charged with carrying the device and the third with disrupting the investigation and kicking a police officer.
LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer says his officers quickly found the main suspect, and he believes his deputies stopped a horrific tragedy from occurring.
“It’s kind of scary,” said Mollenhauer. “Everybody always thinks it just can’t happen here in LaPorte County or any other county. It’s something you read or see on TV in Boston or New York.”
But Thursday night, police found a homemade explosive device at the fairgrounds. A teenager was carrying it in his backpack.
A person at the fair who saw or heard the teen talking about the explosive device told a sheriff's deputy who was on the grounds there. That person told police he believed the teen planned to set it off near the carnival rides.
“When they dismantled it, they said it could have injured or possibly killed someone,” Mollenhauer said.
From the evidence investigators gathered, Mollenhauer said at least one of the suspects wanted to do harm.
The sheriff credits alert citizens and quick action by police for preventing a horrific tragedy.
“We’re just fortunate that this was located.”
The teens are being held at the LaPorte County Juvenile Center which is just down the road from the fairgrounds.
An initial hearing was held on Monday, but details about what happened in that hearing are confidential because the suspects are minors.
At this point, there is no indication that the prosecutor's office will try to charge these young men as adults in this case.
Mollenhauer said police didn’t release any information until after the fair was over, because they didn’t want to alarm anyone around the fair and because his investigators spent the weekend working on the case making sure they had everyone involved.
The following release was issued Monday morning by the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department:
On Thursday, July 11, 2013 at approximately 9:04 pm La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputies, who were providing law enforcement services at the La Porte County Fair, were approached by a concerned citizen who reported information regarding a potential explosive device that was in possession of a juvenile who was in attendance. The complainant also stated that it was believed that the suspect was planning to detonate the device near the carnival rides. A description of the suspect was provided and within several minutes, the La Porte County Regional Dispatch Center received a 911 call from an anonymous caller that related the same information.
Acting upon the information, Sheriff’s Deputies quickly swept the fairgrounds and within seven (7) minutes located the suspect and a suspicious device was located within a backpack that he was wearing. The backpack was removed from the suspect and he was secured in handcuffs. While further searching the suspect, another juvenile male, who had been standing nearby began to argue with deputies and was loud and unruly, disrupting the deputies from investigating this matter. That juvenile, who was sixteen (16) years of age, refused to quiet and due to his disruptive behavior, was taken into custody for Disorderly Conduct. While attempting to secure him he kicked one of the deputies and resisted and therefore sprayed with Oleoresin Capsicum (OC or pepper spray) and he soon became complaint. He was also charged with Battery to a Police Officer and Resisting Law Enforcement and ultimately transported to the La Porte County Juvenile Services Center.
The suspicious device was removed from the populated area of the fairgrounds and the Porter County Bomb Squad was called upon to dismantle the device. In addition, investigators from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) were called. Upon arrival technicians with the Porter County Bomb Squad dismantled the device and confirmed that it was indeed an explosive device.
Investigators from the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office joined with investigators from the BATF and began to further investigate the incident and ascertained that a second suspect was responsible for manufacturing the device. He was soon located at his home and taken into custody without incident. One juvenile, a sixteen (16) year old male from La Porte, was charged with Possession of a Destructive Device, a class “C” felony. The other, also sixteen (16) years old, was charged with Manufacturing a Destructive Device, a class “C” felony. Both were transported to the Juvenile Services Center.
Sheriff Michael Mollenhauer praised the willingness of citizens to seek out Sheriff’s Deputies and report this information as their reports undoubtedly thwarted a violent tragedy from occurring at the heavily populated La Porte County Fair.