Explosive device blasts park men's room

Rogue River police are on the hunt for vandals who blew up the men's toilet at a public rest area over the weekend.

An "improvised explosive device" was set off inside the men's restroom at Fleming Park, 8898 Rogue River Highway, destroying the toilet and sending shrapnel into the ceiling and walls of the building, said Rogue River Police Chief Ken Lewis.

Those responsible for the blast face felony charges of first-degree arson, first-degree criminal mischief and unlawful possession of a destructive device, Lewis said.

Because of the nature and severity of the blast, which Lewis said could have easily injured or killed someone, the Oregon State Police Bomb Squad was called to the restroom at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Lewis said his investigation turned up remnants of a commercial-grade firework inside the bathroom which apparently had been modified to explode at ground level instead of in the air.

The blast, which resulted in more than $1,000 damage, was discovered by a city public-works employee early Saturday morning. Police believe the blast occurred sometime overnight. The bathroom was closed and secured as a crime scene until Monday morning, when police collected evidence, Lewis said.

Lewis said the bathroom blast may be the work of a person who blew up a mailbox in Gold Hill. At about 5:30 p.m. Friday, Rogue River police responded to a call for assistance from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department at 1085 N. Fifth Ave., Gold Hill, after suspects in a pickup truck placed an explosive device in a mailbox at that address, which then blew up, he said.

"We're wondering if the two might be related," Lewis said. "I didn't see any evidence in the Gold Hill incident. But it's very suspicious."

Anyone with information about the crimes is urged to call the Rogue River Police Department at 541-582-4931.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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