Law enforcement officials are investigating two homemade explosive devices that were apparently thrown from a vehicle Thursday at two Kalispell locations, including one aimed at a pro-life prayer vigil.
No one was injured, though the devices — made up of an unknown chemical, a plastic bottle and aluminum foil — did explode.
According to the Kalispell Police Department, the first device was reported by an off-duty officer in front of a department store at Mountain View Plaza at 6:05 p.m. and the second was along Meridian Road at 6:17 p.m.
Kalispell Police Department Lt. Wade Rademacher said detectives still are investigating the reports, but the timing and proximity of the devices appear to point to a sole perpetrator.
“It was the same type of bottle and appeared to have the same types of components,” Rademacher said.
The second device was reported at the intersection of Meridian Road and Liberty Street where a woman was participating in 40 Days for Life, a national campaign that sponsors pro-life prayer vigils outside abortion providers.
Karen Trierweiler, coordinator of Kalispell’s vigils, criticized Kalispell Police Department’s response to the homemade explosive, which landed just short of the sidewalk before making a loud popping noise that was followed by a flame.
The woman holding the vigil didn’t see where the device originated from, Trierweiler said. She said a responding officer didn’t collect the remnants of the device and failed to properly investigate.
Less than 24 hours later, the Thomas More Society — a Chicago-based pro-life law center — produced a press release stating attorneys would file a formal complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Helena office.
The release called the incident a “vicious fire-bombing attack on a pro-lifer” and a case of domestic terrorism.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, said the Kalispell Police reaction was “appalling, indeed outrageous” and that any conclusion that the incident was random is “at war with common sense and evidence alike.”
“If the bomb were aimed at this lady and the assailant missed, that was a fortunate happenstance,” he wrote in an email to the Inter Lake. “But what if he merely wanted to scare her, an elderly retiree praying on the public sidewalk — exercising her fundamental First Amendment rights — that alone would rank as an entirely unconscionable act.”
Rademacher said police still looking into both the explosive devices and the response. He said one of the reasons the remnants of the Meridian Road device were not collected was because of the nature of the chemical involved.
“With anything, there are things we can do better,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s anything that would affect this case.”
Reporter Eric Schwartz may be reached at 758-4441 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.