WOODBURN, Ore. — A bank employee found a bomb in the bushes outside — and officers responding to the threat inexplicably took the device into the building.
It exploded, killing a local police officer and a state bomb disposal technician and critically injuring the police chief of Woodburn, in Oregon's agricultural heartland. A bank employee was also slightly injured.
Asked why officers took the bomb into the bank, Lt. Gregg Hastings, spokesman for the Oregon State Police, said Saturday: "That we don't know."
But with a bomber apparently on the loose, authorities had more pressing things to worry about. They had no suspects and no motive in Friday's bombing.
"That person is dangerous and needs to be found as soon as possible," Hastings said. Federal authorities said they were offering a $35,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
Threat to a different bank
The explosion around 5:30 p.m. Friday followed a bomb threat call to a nearby Wells Fargo branch bank. The State Police said Saturday that investigators found "a suspicious object" that turned out to be harmless.
But the police said their investigation led next door to the West Coast Bank, where the bomb was found.
Bank President and CEO Robert Sznewajs said the bank manager found the device Friday in a survey of the grounds undertaken after an employee got a call about the Wells Fargo incident and law enforcement officers had made a check.
Hastings declined to describe the bomb in detail but indicated it was powerful. The inside of the bank was extensively damaged, state police said, and a female employee was treated at Salem Hospital and released. Another bank employee was uninjured.
Police said late Friday that a Woodburn police officer had died. The State Police said Saturday that one of their bomb technicians had also died at the scene.
The dead were identified as Senior Trooper William Hakim and Woodburn police Capt. Tom Tennant, both 51. Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell, 46, was in critical condition at a Portland hospital.
Federal investigators arrive
Police opened up a large area around the bank Saturday that had been sealed and allowed traffic to move freely on a nearby state highway. They had earlier said there was no evidence of more bombs.
Investigators included state and local authorities as well as officials from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Detectives were still in the bank building on Saturday.
The federal agencies were acting as advisers and hadn't taken over the case, said Marion County Undersheriff Jason Myers.
"At this point, it's still a local-level investigation," he said.
'Small bank with nice people'
Joe Langley, who pumps gas at a Union 76 station a few blocks away, said the blast sounded like thunder.
"It's just a small bank with nice people working there," he said Saturday. "I don't know why anybody would do this."
Woodburn is about halfway between the capital, Salem, and Portland. It has a population of about 21,000 and is home to many blue-collar and agricultural workers in the valley's extensive nursery crops business.
The two bank buildings are near each other in a commercial strip through the center of town.
Hakim is survived by a wife, a 16-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter, the State Police said. Tennant was a 28-year veteran of the Woodburn force with a wife and children ages 24, 22 and 17.
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