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Suspected bomb found in Shepherdstown

March 28, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Construction workers found a bag containing a suspected bomb Monday morning at a site on Church Street, Police Chief Charles Cole said.

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The device, which was inside a plastic grocery bag, contained five canisters, Cole said.

After a bomb expert destroyed the device, it appeared there was an explosive power inside, although Cole could not conclusively say if it was gun powder or a similar substance.

Cole said he is convinced the bag was intended to "at minimum, alarm someone."

Cole said it appeared someone had tried to detonate the contents of the bag, but he would not elaborate.

After the bag was destroyed, police gathered the remains so they could be packaged and sent to a West Virginia State Police lab in Charleston, where experts will try to determine whether it was a bomb, according to Cole.

The bag was found between 7:30 and 8 a.m. by a construction worker at one of the houses, Cole said.

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The contractors called 911 dispatchers, who notified police, Cole said.

Shepherdstown Police called Larry Gochenour, a bomb expert with Loudoun County (Va.) Fire and Rescue, to help remove the bag.

Investigators determined the safest method of disposing of it was to destroy it at the scene, Cole said.

After blocking Church Street to traffic and evacuating people from one house close to the scene, Gochenour used a device similar to a shotgun to destroy the bag, Cole said.

Mounted on a tripod, the device fired water at the suspected bomb "with such force" that it caused it to break up before it could go off, Cole said.

"It went without incident," he said.

Cole said he does not know why someone might have put a bomb on Church Street, which turns off German Street in the heart of the downtown area. Cole said he could not think of any problems recently with people making threats.

Church Street was blocked off until about 10:30 a.m. while the bag and its contents were destroyed and the area was photographed, Cole said.

Cole said he did not know how long it will take the state police to determine whether it was a bomb.

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