Feds investigate 'bottle bombs'

One of the "bottle bombs" exploded Monday inside a Penny Saver box

By Kelli Scopcynski
South Bend Tribune

GRANGER — Agents of the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are now investigating at least four reported incidents of explosive devices found in Granger mail and paper boxes and the possibility that they could be connected.

One of the "bottle bombs" exploded Monday inside a Penny Saver box at the home of Brendan Mullen, a Democrat running against Jackie Walorski for the 2nd District congressional seat. Mullen said he actually saw a black car pull up to his paper box around 4:45 p.m. Monday, put something inside and speed off.

"Shortly thereafter, (I saw) a large boom and a small explosion and white billowing smoke coming out of my Penny Saver slot," he said.

His first thought when he saw a plastic bottle with tin foil and yellow liquid oozing from it?

"My gut says this was just a random, maybe pre-Halloween shenanigans or just high school kids messing around. But because of the spotlight this candidacy has and the spotlights we're under, it's something to take extraordinarily seriously," Mullen said.

He alerted his staff, then called police.

By 3 p.m. Tuesday, officers had responded to three more calls in neighborhoods near Mullen's for more "bottle bombs" in mail and paper boxes. By then, St. Joseph County police Lt. Matt Blank said the assumption was they were created by kids playing a prank.

"It's very serious," Blank said. "The ATF and FBI are looking into possible federal violations as well, but it's not something anybody is willing to just laugh off at this point as kids being kids. It has some very serious potential for injury and damage, so we have to take that seriously."

Blank said there could still be handmade bombs in mail and paper boxes in Granger neighborhoods that have not been found or reported yet.

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