UPDATE: Two teenage boys have been charged with setting off two homemade bombs inside a Wal-Mart filled with holiday shoppers, authorities said.
The boys, both 15, were taken into custody after photos from the store’s security cameras where shown on television newscasts.
The explosion of two homemade bombs inside Wal-Mart Saturday afternoon sent a store full of holiday shoppers scurrying for the exits.
Two acid bombs detonated in two separate aisles as the store was crowded with shoppers around 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, said Sgt. Joel Davis, fire investigation supervisor for the State Fire Marshal’s Office. One of the bombs detonated in the pet area. The second was in the store’s toy section, Davis said.
Early reports indicate that three or four people suffered minor injuries, mostly limited to ringing ears caused by the blasts, but last night investigators could still not rule out that someone may have suffered more serious injuries that had not yet been reported.
The store was evacuated following the explosions and by 6:30 p.m. employees who had been waiting in the parking lot were told to go home for the evening.
The store is expected to reopen today, said Dale Brann, store manager.
Two individual have been identified from the stores security cameras, one of whom is seen talking to the store’s greeter, as persons of interest. Davis stopped short of describing the young men in the video as subjects, but the video suggests they might at least have seen something relevant to the investigation.
“We’d at least like to talk to them,” he said.
An acid bomb is most frequently made with household products that are poured into a plastic container, Davis said. The chemicals react to form an acidic substance while simultaneously expanding, causing the plastic to expand to the point of explosion. The formula can be downloaded from the Internet, Davis said, but the ease with which the bombs are built belie their danger. A similar bomb in another part of the state seriously injured a police officer, Davis said. Saturday’s explosion was less destructive.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Davis said. “They’re simple but very dangerous.”
The devices did not appear to be attached to timing devices, Davis said, and there were no notes or messages associated with the bombs.
Fire, police and ambulance crews from Skowhegan were the first to arrive on scene, Davis said. Davis was joined by five other investigators from the fire marshal’s office, in addition to a team from the State Police Bomb Squad. Teams checked the air quality to ensure no dangerous substances had been released into the atmosphere, Davis said. Investigators then conducted an aisle-by-aisle search for other devices and collected evidence.
Investigators and other emergency workers remained at the scene until after 9:30 p.m.
Brann described a chaotic scene with people screaming when the bombs first exploded.
“I was extremely pleased nobody was injured,” he said. “I think everyone in the community did an amazing job.”