BEND, Ore. - (Update: Bend PD provides photo, say object likely pipe bomb)
U.S. Highway 20 near Bend's Pilot Butte was shut down for about a half-hour Friday morning while an Oregon State Police bomb squad examined and safely detonated an apparent pipe bomb found near the median of the road, authorities said.
Bend police responded shortly before 8 a.m. to the intersection of Northeast Greenwood Avenue and 12th Street on the report of a suspicious device, said Lt. Clint Burleigh.
A citizen reported seeing a six-inch-long galvanized pipe with a cap on both ends, Burleigh said.
Officers found the item in the road, near a pedestrian median at the intersection, and “believed the device was potentially dangerous,” Burleigh wrote in a news release.
Police contacted the Oregon State Police Explosives Unit in Salem and provide information about the suspicious object. After they exchanged information, several sandbags were placed around the device until they could arrive, but traffic was allowed to continue.
The OSP unit arrived on scene at 11:15 a.m., and the road was closed while work to render the device safe got underway. The closure lasted about 20 minutes.
The explosives unit typically will take the item and render it harmless, sometimes using a large container they travel with. But witnesses said this device was detonated in place, though little sound was heard.
Burleigh said Bend police are “actively investigating the incident. Preliminary information has determined that the device was likely authentic.”
"We can’t confirm it was a legitimate explosive device, but it appears it was probably authentic," Burleigh told NewsChannel 21.
Anyone with information or knowledge about the incident was asked to contact police at 541-693-6911.
The highway closure came on a day many Oregonians will be traveling for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Some commenters on KTVZ's Facebook page said the object had been in or near that spot for at least a day, if not longer; Burleigh said they had not confirmed those reports but were looking into it.
Bend police said they knew the highway closure might be a headache for some drivers, but said the choice to close a section of the highway came down to safety.
“On a busy Friday afternoon, that’s a lot of cars and a lot of people," Sgt. Tom Pine said. "But we are going to minimize that as much as we can. Yeah, it’s inconvenient, but it’s safe.”
Bend police offered thanks to the OSP Explosives Unit, ODOT, Bend Public Works and Bend Fire and Rescue for their help.
ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy said, “Our role is to keep sort of a perimeter, if you will ,and make sure that the highway itself is safe. And then we work with our partner agencies, law enforcement or the bomb squad as in this case, so that it is clear and available for them to go and and do what they have to do.”
Bend police also reminded the public to “please contact your local law enforcement agency if you locate a suspicious device. Do not attempt to move the item or disturb it in any way. Extreme care and handling of such devices is required, along with specific knowledge and equipment to ensure a safe resolution to incidents of this nature.”