2 bombs, 2 days, just blocks away, in Gateway

Find out what caused the explosion that shut down the Russellville area on Thursday. And, learn why the Portland Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit was again called out to outer East Portland – this time to NE Glisan Street, where folks were evacuated on Friday. With exclusive interviews and photos, it’s reporting you’ll find only here …

It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen the Portland Police Bureau’s Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit roll into outer East Portland – but [left] they came on Thursday, August 19 to the Russellville area and [right] a few blocks away to NE 98th Avenue and NE Glisan Street on Friday, August 20.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With a concussive explosion on one day – followed by the discovery of bomb-making materials in the subterranean parking lot of an apartment building the next – Portland Police Bureau East Precinct officers and Portland Fire & Rescue crew members had a lively two days, August 19 and 20.

Noontime explosion rocks Russellville area

Police and fire investigators examine the location of the noontime explosion and smoke, outside the office of a long-time Gateway insurance agent.

The concussion of a nerve-shattering blast rocked the Russellville area of the Gateway District, shutting down traffic along SE 102nd Avenue just north of SE Stark Street, for about two hours on Thursday, August 19, just a little past the noon hour.

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct officers and command staff, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters, investigators, and battalion chief – and even the bomb squad – lined the 300 block of SE 102nd Avenue. They were all focused on a small frame building on the west side of the street that’s been there for years.

After the explosion rocked his office, State Farm Insurance agent John Lokting stood by, while emergency responders combed the area for evidence.

Standing behind the yellow emergency tape, looking at all the commotion swirling around his family-owned State Farm Insurance Agency building – the epicenter of the blast – was John Lokting.

A fixture of the neighborhood – he was appointed an agent in 1981, and eventually took over his father’s agency – Lokting looked mildly bemused by the intense activity.

“The sound and shaking really startled me,” Lokting told us. “At first, it sounded like a really bad car wreck, or maybe someone firing off a shotgun. My assistant came up from the back room – she was concerned, because of the noise made our office shake.”

Portland Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Chris Babcock is briefed by firefighters from Station 7.

PF&R Hazmat Coordinator, Grant Coffey, makes sure all necessary resources are in place.

Seeing smoke coming from the large evergreen tree at the corner of the building, a motorist on SE 102nd abruptly turned into their front parking area, dashed into the building, and exclaimed, “Your building is on fire!”

The blast, and large pillar of smoke filtering up through the evergreen, produced multiple calls for help to the 9-1-1 Center.

Just outside his office’s front door, Lokting said a co-worker pointed out a odd-looking piece of plastic. “It was round, about three quarters of an inch in diameter; there was another on the other side of the planter. I’m guessing they’re end caps of the explosive.”

Not knowing whether there was a mad bomber on the loose – or merely a hooligan with really big firecrackers – police officers immediately started interviewing witnesses in the area.

PPB East Precinct Commander Bill Walker is briefed on the situation by his sergeant.

“Witnesses reported seeing a suspect ride a bicycle away northbound towards East Burnside Street,” reported Portland Police Bureau’s new spokesperson, Lt. Kelli Sheffer. Folks gave police a good description of the 6 ft. tall, 185 lb. fellow they saw pedaling off in a hurry.

“Officers located the suspect [just north of the crime scene] at SE 102nd Avenue and E. Burnside Street,” Sheffer continued. “When officers contacted the suspect, he was hostile and non-compliant; he was taken into custody after being ‘tazed’.”

A PF&R firefighter confirmed what Lotking had told us; that the blast hole was about a foot deep and several feet wide; and that dirt had been blown out of the planter under the evergreen.

As a PPB Cadet looks on, an East Precinct officer examines a backpack taken from the suspect, just minutes after he was taken away for questioning.

“Officers and firefighters located evidence of what is believed to be a small explosive, similar to an M-80 firecracker,” Sheffer confirmed. “There was no damage to the building and no injuries. The firecracker landed in a flower bed.” The flowers suffered casualties.

Officials aren’t yet saying why the suspect may have set off the explosive device – but they did reveal who they suspect of doing it.

Whether it was a prank, or an intentionally-destructive act, the man arrested for the explosion that rattled nerves in Gateway is this man, 26-year-old David Thomas McCarthy.

“Portland Fire Bureau arrested 26-year-old David Thomas McCarthy of Southeast Portland on charges of Disorderly Conduct in the First Degree (Class A Misdemeanor) and Unlawful Possession of Fireworks (Class B Misdemeanor),” Sheffer later reported. “McCarthy was booked in the Multnomah County Jail, with bail is set at $4,000.”

According to Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Jail records, McCarthy was released later in the day.

“I’m glad no one was injured, and there wasn’t any real damage,” Lotking said as we parted. “But it has made for an interesting day.”

Bomb Squad robot plucks pipe bomb from car under Gateway area apartment building

While the Portland Police Bureau’s bomb squad works to safely remove a potential pipe bomb from a suspect’s car – parked under the Gateway Plaza Apartments (seen in the left side of this photo) – NE Glisan Street was shut down for hours, for several blocks around the intersection with NE 98th Avenue on August 20.

While most folks were heading to work, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers from the Drugs and Vice Division (DVD) were off on a mission as well. They rolled up to the Gateway Plaza Apartments, located in the 9900 block of NE Glisan Street, about 8:00 a.m. – ready to serve a search warrant.

“The search warrant was part of an ongoing investigation into heroin distribution,” a PPB spokesman, Sgt. Pete Simpson, said.
While searching for dope, the DVD officers discovered electrical components and a small amount of explosive powder that investigators believed were items that an individual could use to make a bomb.

Feeling confident that all of the explosive materials have been secured in the blast containment vessel,  Portland Police EDU crew members start to look more relaxed.

“Additionally, officers searching the vehicle associated to the suspect, located what appeared to be a fully constructed pipe bomb,” Simpson continued. “Officers immediately called for the Portland Metropolitan Explosives Disposal Unit (EDU) and began to evacuate the apartment building of all residents. A large perimeter was established from Northeast 97th to 102nd, and Irving to Burnside.”

Watching the activity from a safe distance, Chatequa Davis and her child spent most of the morning at the Gateway Shopping Center. “They got us out in a hurry,” she told us as she waited for the “all clear” signal to be given. The police said to grab my purse and my kid, and get away as soon as I could. With the looks on their faces, they didn’t have to tell me twice; we went.”

PPB East Precinct officers stand guard at NE 102nd Avenue and NE Glisan Street – just a few blocks north of the previous day’s bomb scare – making sure no one entered the containment zone.

Following procedures prevents explosion
The EDU crew carefully examined the items in the apartment and determined that they were not an active explosive device, Simpson stated, although the items were collected as evidence. “Utilizing a robot, EDU was able to safely remove the suspected pipe bomb from the suspect’s car and place it into an explosive containment vehicle, for transport to a remote area for further examination.”

Five hours later, about 1:00 p.m., the apartment building was reopened to residents and area streets were reopened to vehicular traffic. “There were no injuries as a result of this investigation,” Simpson noted.

Police say this man, Konstantin Kuznetsov, will be facing two drug charges – and perhaps more charges based on his suspected bomb-making activities.
“The suspect in this case, 35-year-old Konstantin Kuznetsov, was arrested at the scene and booked into jail on charges of Distribution of Heroin (Class A Felony) and Possession of Heroin (Class B Felony),” Simpson concluded. “Detectives are continuing their investigation into the explosives, and may add additional charges at a later date.”

Kuznetsov is being held on a combined bail of $70,000 at the Multnomah County Jail.

Traffic backs up as drivers find they can’t go east from I-205 west on NE Glisan Street – or west from NE 102nd Avenue – due to police activity.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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