Portland police probe bombing, believe Occupy Maine wasn't only target

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PORTLAND — Acting Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Monday police are looking for someone who threw an acid bomb into the Lincoln Park campsite of Occupy Maine protesters last weekend.

And he said it’s not the only explosion reported early Sunday morning.

Sauschuck said officers also heard an explosion or gunshot about an hour before the campsite bombing was reported at 4:02 a.m. He doesn’t believe the protesters were specifically targeted.

“Based on the previous incident at 3 o’clock, we do not believe Occupy Maine was the primary target,” Sauschuck said in a press conference Monday at police headquarters on Middle Street.

Sauschuck said police have taken statements from about a half dozen Occupy Maine members who were awake when the chemical bomb, which police believe was made of household chemicals and aluminum foil, went off Sunday morning.

“It’s a dangerous situation we’re concerned about,” he said. “And we will follow through with the investigation as well as keeping special attention on the area.”

Witnesses reported seeing a silver sedan, possibly a Toyota or Nissan, traveling east on Congress Street. The group heard the sound of a something hitting the ground, followed by an explosion “a couple minutes later,” Sauschuck said. 

He said no one was hurt in the explosion, which occurred in a storage tent. Reports from witness who were awake and about six to 10 feet from the explosion differ on the severity of the explosion, he said. 

“Obviously, this would shake up anybody,” he said.

Sauschuck said police have been in contact with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as well as the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about federal charges that could stem from the incident, including possible civil rights violations.

Although no one has been arrested, Sauschuck said technicians were able to collect physical evidence from the scene. The case remains under investigation.

He said he does not believe the protesters, who have been camped at Lincoln Park for several weeks, were the only target.

Police officers were breaking up a disturbance at about 3 a.m. Sunday morning behind City Hall, he said, when officers reported hearing the first small explosion.

Sauschuck said it came from southwest of the officers, who were at the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Chapel Street. That generally places the location near Monument Square.

“(The) two incidents could be connected,” he said. “We were unable to locate the scene of the first explosion. But that leads us to believe that Occupy Maine may not be in fact be the sole target of whoever was out conducting this criminal activity.”

When asked if it is possible someone within Occupy Maine set off the explosion, he said police are considering all possibilities.

“We look at all angles and scenarios,” Sauschuck said.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact them. Anonymous tips may be made by calling 874-8584, online at Portland-Police.com, or by texting GOTCHA plus a message to 274637 (CRIMES).

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

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