Bomb-making materials found in Boise home, police say

kterhune@idahostatesman.comNovember 6, 2013 

9:30 p.m. UPDATE: Investigators late Wednesday confirmed that bomb-making materials were found in the West Dorian Street home Joshua J. Finch was arrested in earlier.

Bomb technicians and Boise Fire Department Haz Mat experts found more than 100 pounds of materials in various stages of what appeared to be bomb making, police said. Late Wednesday, officials again declined to release details of what, exactly, was found pending review of more charges against Finch.

"The amount of the substances and chemicals found did indeed pose a potential safety threat to the neighborhood,” Boise Police Capt. Eugene Smith said.

If the investigation continued as expected, Boise police said evacuated residents would be allowed to return to their homes between 11 p.m. and midnight.

If the evacuation is lifted, residents can come to the corner of Nez Perce and Jessie streets and check in with an officer.

6:30 p.m. UPDATE: The possibly hazardous substance is still in the crawl space of the West Dorian Street home Joshua J. Finch was arrested in earlier Wednesday.

Boise police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower declined to identify the substance. The material could be an ingredient to an explosive, she said. If so, it's likely not a threat.

"But if they get in there and they find its been mixed with any chemicals or otherwise disturbed, now what may have been a harmless substance by itself, if they find it has been mixed with something, now it's potentially explosive."

Assessing that risk is drawing out the investigation.

"They're experts. These guys know exactly what they're doing and part of that is knowing how to keep safe," Hightower said of the bomb squad.

"We'll probably be out here until at least past 10 o'clock. I don't expect wrapping this up in the next hour or so."

Officers got contact numbers for the families of 21 surrounding homes who chose to evacuate and will let them know when they can return. Hightower also urged residents to pay attention to media updates. Police hope to know by 8 p.m. if the evacuation will last overnight.

"When explosive materials are involved, there are an abundance of precautions that needs to be taken for lots of reasons."

Hightower declined to speculate whether Finch had been trying to make a bomb, or if the material was a by product of something else. The investigation into that is ongoing, she said.

5:10 pm. UPDATE: Steve Gregoire is a resident of Columbus Street who said he lives a couple of houses away from suspect Joshua Finch and can see into Finch's backyard from his house. He said he came home for lunch Wednesday and saw police cars.

Gregoire has lived in the neighborhood for eight years but has never talked to Finch. He said he has seen police at Finch's house several times and arrest Finch once.

"I got a bad vibe from him," Gregoire said while walking around outside of the area police have closed off.

According to online court records, Finch's criminal history includes convictions for battery, driving under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia. In 2006, he was charged with robbery and several other offenses, but pleaded the robbery down to aggravated assault — later violating his probation in that case twice. He is currently accused in Ada County Fourth District Court of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. Another Ada County case is sealed.

Gregoire, his wife and their two children had not decided yet if they'll evacuate, though Gregoire said his wife wants the family to leave.

"The guy doesn't seem like he's some kind of explosives expert," Gregoire said. "It doesn't seem like he has the capability to do something of that magnitude but you never know. We're two houses away but I can't begin to see it being so devastating that it'll take out the block. That's pretty crazy."

Others in the neighborhood have left, many staying with friends and family. Two people are at an American Red Cross center set up at Hawthorne Elementary School, according to the aid agency.

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4:52 p.m. UPDATE: Joshua J. Finch, 32, is the suspect in the kidnapping tied to the Dorian Street home. He has been booked into the Ada County Jail, according to Boise police.

4:40 p.m. UPDATE: Aaron Tower, 18, and Kaylee Horn, 17, live at the corner of Jessie and Nez Perce streets, just outside of the area police have closed off. In addition to seeing police cars Wednesday morning, they said they saw an officer in the area Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning, they said, police told them the home was "a meth lab or a bomb lab."

"We moved to this neighborhood trying to get away from this kind of stuff," Tower said. "It hasn't really happened in this neighborhood. This is a really peaceful neighborhood.

"All this is pretty surprising to us, as well as our neighbors."

4:15 p.m. UPDATE: Police say they're asking residents of 21 homes around the 2200 block of West Dorian Street to voluntarily evacuate.

"We have identified a potentially explosive substance in a large enough amount that, if the substance is what we suspect it to be, people in those homes would be in danger," Boise Police Capt. Eugene Smith said in a statement.

The evacuation covers the block between Nez Perce and Dorian streets to the north and south, and Jessie and Columbus streets to the east and west. Three homes on the east side of Columbus south of Dorian are also affected. Thirteen residents were at home and all are leaving, Boise police said on Twitter.

Police aren't sure when residents may be allowed to return, but are hopeful it will be sometime this evening.

The Red Cross and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also on scene.

Next, bomb and hazmat techs will work to identify the suspicious substance, according to police. The substance is not volatile by itself but could be if mixed with other chemicals. Police still are not saying what the substance is.

THE INITIAL REPORT: Roads are blocked in Boise after police found what appears to be “highly explosive materials” hidden in a kidnapping suspect’s crawl space.

Officers found the explosives while investigating a kidnapping stemming from a family dispute. A man is in custody, charged with two felony counts of kidnapping.

Police were serving a search warrant at the suspect’s house when they learned he might have explosives in the home. The Boise Police Bomb Squad and the Boise Fire Hazardous Materials team were called out to the house — located in the 2200 block of West Dorian Street, southeast of Overland Road and Vista Avenue — and discovered the materials in the crawl space.

Hazmat teams from Boise Fire are still working to determine if it is safe for officers to enter the crawl space. The small, confined space was presenting a potential hazard for officers, spokeswoman Lynn Hightower said.

“Boise police bomb techs are working with Hazmat experts to get a check of the air surrounding that material,” she said. “They check things like oxygen, radiation, if the immediate area is safe.”

Dorian Street is currently blocked between Jessie Street and Columbus Street. Jessie Street is also blocked between Nez Perce and Dorian Street.

But people who live in the area will be allowed to leave and return to their homes, Hightower said.

“Right now, that situation is confined just to that house,” she said. “Residents are being allowed in, at this point. As kids come home from school, they are being allowed to go to their homes.”

Police have not released the name of the suspect. He is currently being questioned and has not yet been booked into the Ada County Jail.

Likewise, Hightower did not say what type of explosives were found. But bomb techs and other experts already have an idea of what it may be.

“If it is what it could be, that will be something they have to take very seriously,” Hightower said.

The kidnapping charges were based on an incident that happened Monday night and was reported to police later. No one was hurt, Hightower said.

“Kidnapping is holding someone against their will, so it’s really not an uncommon charge to see in family disputes and domestic disputes,” she said.

Officers served a search warrant and an arrest warrant at the suspect’s Dorian Street home Wednesday morning, and he was arrested. That’s when police discovered the potentially dangerous materials, Hightower said.

Check back with the Statesman for updates.

Katie Terhune: 377-6219


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