Saskatoon police say they aren’t ruling out anything as the investigation continues into an explosion outside the provincial courthouse Wednesday night.
Officials said an improvised explosive device went off at the entrance of Kilborn Place, on the corner of 19th Street and 3rd Avenue South, just after 11 p.m. No one was injured.
Scott Dempster was driving in the area with friends when he felt the blast from his vehicle.
He told 650 CKOM they noticed a large fire in the building’s entry just before 11 p.m. and stopped to call 911.
“There was eight-foot flames kind of going up into the roof,” Dempster recalled.
The witness said he just got off the phone with the dispatcher when he heard a “bang” and saw the entrance ceiling come crashing down. The blast startled him.
“I kind of did a little half-duck behind the dash a little bit, but kind of happened so quick you really don’t have any time to feel scared.”
Dempster said he noticed three people standing by the fire who looked like they were taking pictures. He noted they left about a minute before the device detonated.
Ward 2 Councillor Hilary Gough was riding her bike on 19th Street when she noticed a vehicle stopped with its hazard lights flashing. She then noticed the fire burning outside the building.
Gough said fire crews arrived a few minutes later and extinguished the blaze.
Be aware, not afraid: police
Saskatoon police Insp. Randy Husman briefed media on the incident Thursday morning. He explained an IED is a technical term for a homemade explosive made from readily-available materials.
“The public normally hears of improvised devices in situations at an international level,” Husman said.
“Although this device falls under that definition, it would be considered on the low end of that spectrum.”
Police stressed the explosion at the courthouse was not linked in any way to international terrorism. He added police are not going to rule out whether it “isn’t a domestic terrorism incident.”
Husman noted the news has caused a “heightened sense of concern” for the public and staff in the area. Police have since stepped up their presence.
“This is a high priority for the Saskatoon Police Service. We have detectives aggressively investigating the incident and we are currently reviewing evidence,” Husman said, adding several units and police canines are involved.
The inspector noted part of the initial investigation is canvassing for video surveillance footage. A nearby bar was secured following the blast to see if anyone inside had information.
“We want to encourage the public to be aware, but not be afraid,” he said. “We would like them to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.”
Police are also not ruling out any connection between Wednesday’s explosion and another incident at the courthouse involving a backpack last month.
On Feb. 3, a backpack containing what police called “explosive materials” was discovered on the ground near the building.
Police later confirmed the explosive was a single Roman candle-type firework. The backpack was destroyed by the bomb squad out of caution.
The incident is still under investigation.
Police said currently, the investigation into recent suspicious white powder deliveries – including one several hours after the explosion – remains a separate matter.
“No reason whatsoever to believe this is connected to any of the suspicious package incidents we’ve received in Saskatoon,” Husman said.
There was no comment on any suspects or persons of interest.
– With files from 650 CKOM’s Brent Bosker.