3 Princeton packages contained 'inert powder'

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2009 - 8:23 PM

Results were pending on plastic bottles that forced a shutdown of Princeton.

PRINCETON, MINN -- Three suspicious packages found here Wednesday contained only "inert powder,'' police said Thursday.

Authorities were awaiting test results on five plastic bottles resembling homemade bombs that also were scattered in the city Wednesday. The discoveries forced the shutdown of schools and much of town Wednesday. Police said they have "persons of interest" in the case, but no suspects.

Students returned to classes Thursday with a mixture of nervousness and confidence.

The suspicious packages were found Wednesday morning outside the U.S. Post Office, high school and Public Utilities Commission building between 6 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. Students were sent home, businesses were evacuated and large portions of town were cordoned off as local, county and federal authorities investigated. None of the three devices detonated, but some of the five "chemical reaction devices" (authorities called them "MacGyver bombs" after the TV character who improvised explosives) popped while authorities were busy at the first three scenes.

According to Police Chief Brian Payne, some witnesses reported hearing a "pop" and then seeing a car drive away from where the devices, made of plastic beverage bottles, were later found. The bottles were left on the road on the north and south ends of town.

Payne would not go so far as to link the bottles with the three original packages. He described the three packages as opaque glass bottles about a foot tall with wire sticking out and wrapped in electrical tape.

Payne declined to elaborate about the "persons of interest'' in the case.

Princeton High School senior Casey Hanson said his class was told by one teacher that no students were considered suspects. Most students said the school day went as usual Thursday.

"It was pretty low-key," Hanson said.

Attendance was below average for the two elementary schools, but normal for the high school and middle school, said school Superintendent Richard Lahn. Regularly scheduled school events, including today's homecoming football game and dance, will go on as planned. Students were skeptical that the bomb scare was linked to the homecoming events.

Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391

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