The Kalispell police are investigating a series of small explosives thrown at various locations around the city last week, including at an anti-abortion demonstrator on Meridian Road.
Five of the small explosives were reported between March 17 and March 19, according to Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset, at the front door of Target, the Dollar Tree, Sykes Pharmacy, at a location on Garland Street and along North Meridian Road while demonstrators there took part in an ongoing anti-abortion vigil.
“We don’t have any information that they are targeting anti-abortion protesters or targeting a box store,” Nasset said. “It appears to be completely random.”
“At this point, no one has been injured,” he added.
Nasset described the explosives as “water bottle bombs,” where chemical drain cleaner and aluminum foil are combined in a plastic drinking bottle causing it to combust.
“You can get on the Internet and find hundreds of ways to do this particular bomb,” Nasset said.
In the days since the incidents, police are following up on what Nasset called, “some very good leads,” including witnesses and video.
“We feel like we’ll have a positive resolution on this, hopefully within the next few days,” he said.
The demonstrators on North Meridian, who were participating in a “40 Days for Life” vigil, which is a Christian campaign against abortion, complained about the initial reaction of the Kalispell Police to the water bottle bomb there, and filed a formal complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to a Friday news release from the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based law firm that opposes abortion, an elderly retired woman was demonstrating when “it exploded on the sidewalk behind her, making a loud popping noise like a big firecracker as it burst into flame.”
The statement went on to say the responding officer did not attempt to get fingerprints from the bomb’s remains, and told the demonstrators they “should expect this kind of reaction if they’re out there protesting.”
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, described the Kalispell Police Department’s actions as a, “tepid, indifferent and grossly unprofessional response to this blatant act of domestic terrorism.”
Nasset acknowledged his department’s response could have been better, but said, “I think quite a bit of that actually got blown a little bit out of proportion.”
Nasset added that he believes the responding officer’s words were taken out of context, and that at the time police responded to the explosive on North Meridian, they were also responding to both the explosive at Target, reported 15 minutes earlier, and a resident threatening suicide.
“We’re taking that as a learning experience,” Nasset said. “Anything that we may not have done perfectly then, we’re making up for it now.”
Because the Thomas More Society filed a complaint with the Helena field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nasset said Kalispell Police are working with the FBI on the case, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“They’re certainly not doing their own investigation, they’re working with us,” Nasset added.
Karen Trierweiler, the campaign director for 40 Days for Life in Kalispell, said that although she was dissatisfied with the initial response, she believes the Kalispell Police are now working diligently on the investigation.
“We’re definitely reassured that they are taking it seriously,” Trierweiler said.
The demonstrators are also reassured that, given the number of explosives around Kalispell, it is unlikely the incident was some type of attack on the anti-abortion vigil.
“The feeling is that we weren’t a sole target or anything like that, not even a direct target,” Trierweiler said.
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