Bomb squad: North St. Paul downtown block evacuated due to 'hoax device'

North St. Paul police cleaned up the blown-up hoax device on Thursday, after the St. Paul Police Department Bomb Squad gave the all clear just after 2 p.m. (photos by Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

Due to a report of a suspicious package in front of Luther Auctions, North St. Paul firefighters block off East Seventh Avenue at Margaret Street, in preparation for the St. Paul bomb squad. The bomb squad determined it was a hoax device.

A member of the St. Paul bomb squad examines a possible improvised explosive device, later deemed a hoax, on Thursday in front of Luther Auctions in North St. Paul.

Buildings were evacuated and streets were blocked.

An evidence bag, containing wires, a container and other items that made up something the St. Paul bomb squad deemed a hoax device, which was made to resemble a bomb and left on the sidewalk in front of Luther Auctions in North St. Paul.
Kaitlyn Roby
Review Staff

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.

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