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Bomb squad: North St. Paul downtown block evacuated due to 'hoax device'
The St. Paul bomb squad blew up a “hoax device” Thursday in North St. Paul, after rescue personnel evacuated a block of downtown buildings and blocked off East Seventh Street.
North St. Paul police received a report of a suspicious package next to a trash can in front of Luther Auctions at 2556 E. Seventh Ave., just after noon.
When officers arrived at the scene, they saw a black duffel bag with a Minnesota Wild emblem that contained wires and other “concerning items,” according to North St. Paul Capt. Dustin Nikituk. The St. Paul bomb squad was contacted.
Just after noon, squad cars with flashing lights parked on East Seventh Avenue, blocking the intersections at Margaret and Charles streets. Going door to door, officers and firefighters told patrons, residents and owners that they had to evacuate. The Next Step School, operated by District 622 in the Keindel's Korner building, was also evacuated.
"Oh my goodness -- really? We have to close?" the women staffing the desk at the Antique Mall, right across the street from Luther, asked a officer before hurriedly packing their things and locking the door.
Tracy Luther, the owner of Luther Auctions, was reached on his cell phone around 1 p.m. as he lingered behind his building to keep an eye on things.
"There's a suspicious package in front of the auction house; they're X-raying it as I speak," he said.
While standing across the street from the incident, John Rowan, a Garry Insurancenter employee, said a police officer told everyone in the building to lock the doors and evacuate the area at about 12:30 p.m., saying there was suspicious activity nearby.
The bomb squad advised local firefighters and officers to get behind a fire truck at about 2 p.m., shortly before the squad blew up the package down the street.
Firefighters then removed the yellow “fire line do not cross” tape and officers put the duffel and its contents into evidence bags. A banana peel, batteries and a container with some wires protruding from it littered the sidewalk, as business owners and employees looked on.
According to Nikituk, the bomb squad determined that a bucket decorated with a skull and crossbones, wires, a battery and some other items were assembled in order to resemble a bomb.
The North St. Paul Police Department is investigating the incident.
Holly Wenzel contributed to this story.