Bomb scare locks down Montavilla streets

The first time the ‘Bomb Squad’ tried to disable the IED, it didn’t work. See what they finally did to render it harmless …

A police car and the Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit truck block the Montavilla intersection of SE 80th Avenue and SE Pine Street, while Bomb Squad members investigate a suspected pipe bomb.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Their usual mid-day walk was interrupted on November 26, when Montavilla resident Marie Lathrop and her dog, Lizzy Lou the Wonder Dog, were strolling east on SE Pine Street. She said they were stopped by stern-faced Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers as they approached SE 80th Avenue.

“The officer said there was an explosive device found near the recycling bins at Montavilla United Methodist Church,” Lathrop told East Portland News. “On our way back home, I heard a loud ‘pop’ sound; but no explosion.”

This MEDU robot remotely checks out the potential IED, before firing off a “disruptor” charge, hoping to disable it without detonating it.

Her report mirrored that of others who watched from the taped-off perimeter area which – surprisingly to some – extended north of the outer East Portland church parking lot all the way to East Burnside Street.

The hours-long police vigil caused by the discovery of a possible “improvised explosive device” (IED) began at 10:34 a.m., when PPB East Precinct district officers responded to the church parking lot at 232 SE 80th Avenue.

Reportedly, a trash hauler discovered the suspected pipe bomb, backed away, and called 9-1-1 to report the device.

Explosive specialists decide what course of action to take, while the suspected pipe bomb remains in their robot’s clutches.

“Officers arrived and, after a preliminary examination of the device, called for the Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit (MEDU) to respond to the scene,” said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

MEDU crew members rolled a radio-controlled bomb-handling robot out of their truck, and drove it over to the device – which appeared to be a pipe, with wires and a box or cell phone taped to it.

Once it was in the grip of its pick up arm, the robot fired a “disruptor” charge at the suspected pipe bomb. Nothing happened.

This MEDU crew member – who is also a Portland Police Bureau officer – suits up in blast-resistant gear before examining the device

… and heads over to take an in-person look at the suspected bomb.

A MEDU officer donned a heavy protective vest and blast-resistant helmet, and slowly walked over to the suspected IED, still firmly grasped by the robot’s “hand”, and carefully examined it.

Walking away, the robot was fired another disruptor charge, this time with a louder report – perhaps because it was a more powerful charge, or because the IED partially detonated.

Reloading a disruptor charge, this MEDU officer sets up the robot to take another shot at the potential bomb.

“It really was louder the second time,” said Robert Albo, who said he witnessed the proceedings – from a distance.

By 3:00 p.m., the explosive drama was over. “MEDU members were able to render the small improvised explosive device safe,” Simpson said.

“Special Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are assisting the Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue with this investigation,” Simpson added.

Those with information about this incident or device are asked to contact Detective Joe Luiz at (503) 823-3408,; or, Investigator Rick McGraw at (503) 823-3797,

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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