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Investigators believe they now know the cause of a series of loud explosions reported in near-downtown neighborhoods over four consecutive nights as well as Tuesday afternoon, police said.
While each incident generated an unusual number of calls, evidence now indicates the blasts may have been caused by vandals or pranksters setting off powerful fireworks, Columbus Police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.
The first of five reports that came in early Saturday concerning “big bangs” was received at 2:04 a.m. from the area of 10th and Franklin streets, according to incident reports. Less than 10 minutes later, two similar complaints were made by residents living southwest of the Greenbelt Golf Course.
Both were initially listed as “disturbances” in the incident logs.
Then, at 1:16 a.m. Sunday, the first of eight calls specifically complaining about “loud noises” came from a Columbus resident in the area of 15th and California streets, reports stated.
While investigators still had no idea where those weekend explosions originated, the first break in the case came when Patrolman Chad Davis heard a loud boom shortly after 10 p.m. Monday while patrolling near Central Middle School, Myers said.
While nine other Columbus residents told police they heard the same thing, one caller reported seeing a large flash in the area of Eighth and Pearl streets, Myers said.
Following that lead, Davis found an uninjured but shaken woman crying in a parked car behind a house in the 700 block of Pearl, Myers said. The woman told the patrolman that while she was waiting for a friend, someone in a car threw an item next to her vehicle that created a loud, frightening boom and thick, white smoke, Myers said.
How to help
Columbus Police are seeking the public’s help in determining who is responsible for a series of explosions reported in the city over the past week.
Anyone with information, especially in regard to the small, white, four-door car seen Monday night, is urged to contact Detective Sgt. Tom Foust at 376-2642. Tips may be left anonymously.
Smelling gunpowder in the air, Davis quickly discovered that the explosion had caused minor damage to the woman’s vehicle, leaving a small amount of residue, Myers said. Evidence was collected at the scene that will be analyzed to determine what type of explosive was ignited, Myers said.
The woman told Davis the exploding device was thrown from a small, white, four-door car similar to a Pontiac Sunbird or a Chevrolet Cavalier, Myers said.
A bigger break for investigators came in at 3:41 p.m. Tuesday when two explosions were reported in an east-west alleyway near Ninth and Sycamore streets. The blasts caused siding damage along two sides of one house, Myers said.
A label found at the scene Tuesday indicates the explosions were likely caused by a type of firework often marketed as “mortar” or “artillery” shells, Myers said. During amateur fireworks displays, users load one shell at a time into a launch tube, and when it is shot in the air, the shell bursts, creating a noisy and colorful light display, according to the Captain Boom fireworks website.
The setting off of two shells next to the same house during daylight hours Tuesday indicates the vandals may have become more brazen, Myers said. These types of fireworks could cause serious injuries if they go off next to a person, he said.
While two shells are believed responsible for separate explosions early Wednesday in the area of 23rd and Pennsylvania streets, Myers said the investigation into the 3 a.m. incident produced no witnesses, suspects or additional evidence.
Since earlier callers complained that an explosion rattled their windows, it’s possible similar shells were ignited next to the callers’ homes during the three previous nights, Myers said.
“We can’t be 100-percent sure (fireworks) were the cause of the earlier explosions, but when you get this many reports over a short time in the same general area, it’s hard to believe it’s coincidence,” Myers said. “More than likely, the earlier incidents are connected to what we found Tuesday.”
Compared to fireworks set off during the Independence Day holiday, the sound may have carried farther and seemed louder due to the loss of leaves from trees, which, when in bloom, would muffle the sound, Columbus Fire Chief Dave Allmon said.
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