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Sep 30th, 2009

According to initial reports Wednesday morning, the local police and fire department and bomb squads from Minneapolis and Crow Wing County were responding to reports of suspicious packages at the post office, high school, and public utilities building in Princeton, Minnesota.

By afternoon, the packages had been “contained” and removed from the sites. The Princeton school superintendent described the package found outside the high school as an “incendiary device” and quoted the police chief as saying the objects were “very suspicious,” containing “some explosive material.”

On Wednesday night, it was reported that in addition to the initial three suspicious packages, five more items, described as “MacGyver bombs,” were discovered around the city.

Subsequent tests showed the packages discovered Wednesday morning contained only “inert powders and were negative for hazardous materials” — an apparent hoax.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 or the Princeton Police Department at (763) 389-4879 or Crime Stoppers of Minnesota at 1-800-222-TIPS.


Original news report

Police Find Suspicious Package at Post Office

A bomb disposal unit secures a suspicious object at the Princeton post office. A selection of 61 photos may be viewed or purchased here.
(Photo: Chris Schafer / Princeton Union Eagle)

By Chris Schafer
Princeton Union-Eagle
September 30, 2009

The Princeton police and fire departments responded to a call of a suspicious-looking package located at the back door of the Princeton Post Office early on the morning of Sept. 30. By 6:30 a.m. officers had blocked Rum River Drive at the intersections of 1st Street and 3rd Street, diverting traffic to the side streets.

Officers also used police tape to block off the entire parking lot of the post office.

Princeton Police Chief Brain Payne couldn’t say much about the situation at this early stage other than to comment that a suspcious package had been found on the step behind the post office. He added that the package was a box and it was sitting on the step, not taped to the door.

Officers have also confirmed that a similar package has been found at the high school and the Princeton PUC.

School has been canceled for all buildings and students at the high school have been placed in lockdown and will be bused to the middle school to be bused home.

Update 9:45 AM: Bomb squads from both Minneapolis and Crow Wing County have arrived outside the Princeton post office.

Update 10:40 AM: A press conference will take place at 11 a.m. near the Princeton Library. More information will be posted after that press conference.

Update 11:26 AM: Photos will be posted shortly of crews working with the object in question at the post office. The photos will appear in the mycapture section of the page on the right side of the page.

Update 9:20 PM: Sources have confirmed that in addition to the three mysterious packages, five additional items described as “McGyver bombs” were discovered around the city. The objects were judged to not be dangerous. … They were collected and delivered to the BCA [Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension] for further research.

Check for updates to this story.


Later reporting

3 Suspicious Packages Investigated in Princeton

By Bob Von Sternberg
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
September 30, 2009

Residents of Princeton, Minn., were breathing somewhat more easily this afternoon after an early-morning bomb scare.

Three suspicious packages were discovered shortly after 6 a.m. at the city’s post office, high school and public utility building, all of which were cordoned off by police.

The packages were “contained” and removed from the sites and by early this afternoon, staff members had returned to the school and the post office. City streets that had been blocked off for most of the morning were reopened.

The city’s school officials closed all of the district’s schools at 9:30 a.m. because of the potential bomb threat.

Princeton Superintendent Rick Lahn said the package found outside the high school by a custodian contained an incendiary device, the Associated Press reported.

Lahn said he was told that by Police Chief Brian Payne, who gave him no details, told him it was “very suspicious and it contained some explosive material,” Lahn said.

FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson said this afternoon that no direct threat had been received where the packages were found.

“There’s no threat associated with these packages, no claim of responsibility or demand at this point,” he said.

Princeton Mayor Jeremy Riddle said that public buildings throughout the city had been swept, but that no other packages had been found.

The packages “have been contained” and “we don’t currently consider those areas [where they were found] to be dangerous,” Riddle said. He said investigators still aren’t sure precisely what’s inside the packages.

City Council member Victoria Hallin said officials were baffled by the appearance of the packages. “There is not a hot-button issue in the community that would inspire anyone to do anything so vile,” she said.

Hallin said authorities told her that the packages, left at the buildings’ doorways, had no identifying marks and weren’t addressed to any person in particular.

No note was left or call made from the person who left the packages, she said.

The school district’s web site announced shortly before 8:30 a.m. that it was sending all of its 3,500 students home as what it called “a precautionary measure.”

Police blocked several city streets early this morning as they cordoned off the three buildings. Rum River Drive, the city’s main street, was reopened late this morning.

The St. Paul police department dispatched members of its bomb squad to Princeton to assist local officers. Also assisting were FBI agents and sniffer dogs from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Sherburne County sheriff’s office.

According to the school district, students from the high school and an elementary school were taken to the middle school and North Elementary, where buses picked them up.

Children were allowed to get off buses only if adults were present at bus stops, the district said. Children who are not met by adults were returned to the middle school. …

Princeton is a community with about 4,500 residents, about 50 miles north of Minneapolis.


Follow-up reporting

Tests Show Princeton Packages Were Not Bombs

KSTP-5 TV (Minneapolis)
October 1, 2009

Tip Line:
1 800 222 TIPS

Related story:
 Suspicious packages shut down Princeton schools

Tests on three suspicious packages that forced schools to close in Princeton Wednesday revealed they were not bombs and did not contain any incendiary material.

The Princeton Police Department issued a statement that said the Public Health Laboratory completed tests on the packages Thursday.

The tests showed the packages contained “inert powders and were negative for hazardous materials.”

The packages were found at a post office, the high school and the Public Utilities Commission building. The discovery of the packages prompted school district officials to call off classes and explosives experts to comb the town of 4,500 with bomb-sniffing dogs. They gave the all clear Wednesday afternoon and students returned to class Thursday morning.

Police Chief Brian Payne says each package contained some sort of bottle that was heavily wrapped was tape with wires running into it.

He said investigators are pursuing several leads.

The Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 or the Princeton Police Department at 763 389-4879.


2 Teens Arrested for Princeton Chemical Bombs

KSTP-5 TV (Minneapolis)
October 2, 2009

Jeremiah Molitor

Two teenagers are under arrest in connection with a series of suspicious packages that shut down schools in Princeton, Minnesota.

Jeremiah Anthony Molitor, 18, of Princeton, and a 17-year-old boy from Dalbo were taken into custody late Thursday night.

Both are students at Princeton High School according to classmates.

Police say the teenagers are connected to five small chemical bombs found on Princeton streets Wednesday, but not necessarily the three packages found outside the high school, the public utilities building and a post office. …

[Video report at link]


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — September 30, 2008

Anja Niedringhaus / AP

After the Primary Election: Day 21

One year ago today, on the 21st day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in line with my focus on national security, I reported on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and U.S. military deaths and persistent violence in Iraq.

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