Michigan lawyer's 911 bomb call: 'My car blew up'

A car burns in Monroe, Mich. on Tuesday after it exploded and seriously injured a local attorney and his two sons.David Zewicky / The Monroe Evening News via AP
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

A blast that turned a vehicle along a Michigan street into a blackened shell and seriously injured an attorney and his two sons was the result of a car bomb, police said Wednesday.

In a 911 call to Monroe County Central Dispatch, Erik Chappell describes his own and his boys' injuries and pleads for a quick response.

"OK, we've got a bad accident. My car blew up with two kids," according to a recording of the call obtained by The Blade newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, and posted on its website. "You've been called on it already, OK, but I'm telling you what's going on with the boys. ... They are bleeding. I need someone here now."

"We're on the way, sir. They should be there any moment," the operator tells him.

Chappell then asks if the 911 center has authority to send an air ambulance. The operator tells him it's up to the emergency medical crew.

Investigators were poring over what remained of the Volvo after the Tuesday evening blast, looking for clues about how the bomb was made and who might have planted it, said Donald Dawkins, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"There was a lot of power behind it. The victims are very fortunate, very blessed, to be alive," Dawkins said.

The explosion took place near a highway underpass in Monroe, about 35 miles southwest of Detroit, the Monroe Police Department said. The vehicle's three occupants were taken to St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, about 20 miles south of Monroe. They were listed in serious condition Wednesday.

Authorities have not publicly identified the victims, but Dawkins said they are a father and his two sons. Local media identified the father as Chappell, 42, an attorney who specializes in business disputes and family law. WXYZ-TV reported Chappell was driving his sons to football practice when the car exploded.

Image: Erik Chappell

Chappell's law office, Lyden, Liebenthal & Chappell, declined comment on Wednesday. The firm is based in Sylvania, Ohio, and has an office in nearby Monroe.

Chappell's notable cases include disputes involving zoning issues on fireworks businesses. He represented Gateway Fireworks in federal court when the company wanted to open a store on Sterns Road near U.S. 23 in Whiteford Township in Monroe County, The Toledo Blade reported.

Chappell was also representing Springfield Township businessman John Miller, who operates fireworks stores in Ohio and Michigan, in an ongoing case in Monroe County involving a store in LaSalle Township, according to the Blade.

In another case, Chappell was representing a woman who wanted to open a hot dog stand in downtown Monroe but couldn't get zoning permission from the city council, according to WXYZ-TV.

No one answered the door at the Chappell home Wednesday. Michael Davison, 61, a retired sheriff's lieutenant who lives a few doors away, said the family hosts a popular party on the Fourth of July.

"They always put on a big fireworks display," Davison said.

He said Chappell regularly is outside playing with his three kids and also coaches football in the local Catholic youth league.

The ATF is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest in the car-bombing.

The victim's Volvo station wagon was traveling on East Elm Avenue, near the ramp to Interstate-75, at 5:41 p.m. Tuesday when it exploded, Monroe police said in a statement, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Edwin Holly, 68, of Tecumseh, told the Free Press he was in a nearby boathouse when he saw the explosion out the window.

“I was looking to see if there were deer and saw the car come around and go boom,” he told the newspaper Wednesday.

“I took off running to the scene to see if I could get anyone out but there was nothing I could do.”

Shawn Remington, 33, said he was working outside his home when he heard what sounded like a heavy, metal Dumpster lid being slammed shut and then saw a big column of smoke.

He said when he got to the scene, firefighters were extinguishing the blaze and rescue workers were loading the victims into ambulances. He said the vehicle was "totally melted."

"By the time I got there, there was nothing left of the vehicle," he said. "It was down to bare metal."

Television news footage showed that the vehicle had been turned into a charred shell.

Monroe is a city of more than 20,000 that is one of Michigan's oldest communities. It has a historic downtown and is home to furniture maker La-Z-Boy Inc.