Police chief on IED at Medford DA's office: 'I think it is domestic terrorism'

Police chief on IED at Medford DA's office: 'I think it is domestic terrorism'
Officials work at the scene near the Jackson County District Attorney's office after an explosion shattered windows and damaged the buildings interior Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Medford, Ore. Officers say they found a burning propane tank in front of the prosecutor's office after an explosion they believe was an attempt to level the building. Medford police spokesman Lt. Mike Budreau says the explosion damaged mostly the exterior, shattering windows, but the tank didn't fully detonate. (AP Photo/The Medford Mail Tribune, Jamie Lusch)

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — An explosive device that police say was designed to destroy an Oregon county prosecutor's office instead blew out windows in a pre-dawn blast Wednesday that did little other damage.

The FBI said it was too early to say whether the blast in Jackson County was terror-related, but Medford Police Chief Tim George said he considered the explosion a domestic terror attack aimed at law enforcement.

No one was hurt when the device fashioned in part from a 5-gallon propane tank exploded. Police say it failed to fully detonate.

About 25 federal investigators from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Seattle and Portland were joining the effort to gather evidence about the explosive device, George said. | READ FBI STATEMENT

"The most important thing in these cases, as we've seen over the years, is the methodical collection of evidence," George said. "I would bet the house on it, we are going to clear this case."

After the explosion, a silver-colored propane tank, similar to those used for camping, lay dented on its side in front of the broken windows at the prosecutor's office.

Two windows near the entrance were broken out of the one-story brick building across a quiet neighborhood street from the jail and courthouse. Yellow crime scene tape surrounded the building and evidence markers dotted the parking lot.

"The bomb squad on scene said had it detonated, there would have been devastation at the scene and the building would have been destroyed." said Medford police spokesman Lt. Mike Budreau. "We believe there was something else attached to (the propane tank) that was intended to blow it up, but was not successful."

No one was inside the building when the blast hit around 4:30 a.m.

When investigators arrived, the tank was burning, and it continued to burn until the propane ran out, police said.

Budreau said police were searching for a man who ran from an officer several blocks away, but it's unclear if he had anything to do with the explosion.

George said there were no suspects and no indications of the motive. While the district attorney's office regularly gets threats from people, none stand out as potentially related, he said.

"I think it is domestic terrorism, absolutely," due to the type of explosive device and the intent to do heavy damage to the district attorney's office, George said. "We don't know what the message was. We don't know what the intent was."

Police withheld details of the explosive device, such as how it was detonated and what kind of explosive was used.

Police went house to house warning people to stay indoors and cleared a large area around the office out of fears there might be other explosive devices, but tightened the closed area after none was found.

The district attorney's office was closed, with a skeleton crew working at another site, District Attorney Beth Heckert said. The courthouse was to reopen in the afternoon, and grand jury proceedings in unrelated cases were to resume Thursday.

George said authorities were making a point of not allowing the explosion to disrupt their regular duties.

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Tim Fought and Terry Petty contributed to this report from Portland, Ore.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press

The following is a statement from the FBI: 

The FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Medford Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office; and the Oregon State Police (OSP) are jointly investigating the use of an improvised explosive device at the Jackson County District Attorney's Office.

At 4:38 a.m. on Wednesday, November 13th, witnesses reported hearing an explosion outside the building located at 715 West 10th Street in Medford, Oregon. Initial reports indicate that someone placed a propane tank next to the entrance of the building and attempted to detonate it. The tank only partially detonated, sending flames up the outside of the building.

Investigators are working to determine the nature of this incident and whether it is an act of terrorism. The investigation is currently being worked with the strong partnerships formed under the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) as well as other working relationships within the law enforcement community to investigate this crime.

"The explosive device was clearly intended to target a government facility, the DA's office. An attack on such a visible symbol of government and justice demands our singular focus.  Although no one was injured, this device posed a significant risk to the firefighters and police officers who responded to the incident," said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. " All of the investigators working this case are fully committed to finding the person or people responsible as quickly as possible."

A man in dark clothing was seen in the area, but it is not known whether he is connected to this event or not. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact law enforcement at:

Phone:
FBI - (503) 224-4181

Email:
Portland@ic.fbi.gov

The FBI, ATF and OSP have all dedicated specially trained bomb technicians to the crime scene. The FBI has also deployed its Evidence Response Team from Portland to maintain and collect evidence from the scene.

AP's earlier story is below.
   
An explosive device that went off before dawn Wednesday and damaged the Jackson County prosecutor's office in Medford, Ore., appeared to be a failed attempt to level the building, a police spokesman said.
   
The device shattered windows and damaged mainly the exterior of the building, said Lt. Mike Budreau of the Medford police. Nobody was hurt.
   
"I think that it's safe to assume that had this bomb went off as it was intended to, it would have most likely destroyed most of the building, and we believe that was the intent of the suspect," Budreau told the Medford Mail Tribune.
   
Budreau said the device included what appeared to be a propane tank that was found burning in front of the district attorney's office after the explosion was reported about 4:30 a.m.
   
The device didn't fully detonate, he said, leaving the tank as a valuable clue for investigators. "But it did catch fire and emitted a large flame until it eventually burned out," he said.
   
Budreau says police are searching for a man who ran from an officer several blocks away.
   
"We're not sure if that is going to be related to this case or if it's going to be unrelated," he said.
   
The resulting fire from the blast did not spread to nearby buildings. The office is part of a cluster of government offices in downtown Medford.
   
Police cleared a large area around the office out of fears there might be other explosive devices, but tightened the closed area after none was found. The district attorney's office was closed for the morning.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)