HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities found the remnants of a small homemade bomb that blew up in an elementary school playground in Helena on Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported, and it was not immediately clear when the blast occurred in Montana’s quiet capital city.
No threat was made against Rossiter Elementary school before the exploded bomb packed in a duct tape-wrapped soda bottle was found, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said. No suspect or motive was identified.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” Dutton said. “We’re going through it methodically and slowly, so we don’t miss something.”
School officials discovered remnants from the detonated bomb shortly before classes began for the day, blocked off the area and called police at about 8:20 a.m., Dutton said.
No property damage was reported.
Third-grader Abigail Lee said she saw the remnants near a basketball hoop.
“I didn’t get too close of a look because once they came over, I just barely noticed it when they came over, and then they said that we had to get away from that area, just in case,” she said. “There was like a dent in the ground.”
Police closed the school to search the grounds for additional devices, and thousands of students across Helena and East Helena were kept inside their schools while authorities swept for bombs outside, authorities said.
The district-wide lockdown was lifted at 11 a.m. “Students will be able to go outside for recess and move back and forth to music and the library,” Hawthorne Elementary School principal Deb Jacobsen said in an email to parents.
Searches also were conducted at the state Capitol and government buildings, Dutton said.
Students were evacuated from the school after authorities made sure the path was clear of other devices.
The 490 students walked to a nearby location where they could be picked up by their parents, said Superintendent Tyler Ream. School buses were brought in to keep them warm. Parents were notified via the school’s messenger system.
The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Montana Highway Patrol were assisting sheriff’s and Helena police officials in the investigation.
Helena is a small city of about 30,000 people in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The school is in a neighborhood just north of the city’s center.
This story clarifies that the students walked to the evacuation site.
This story clarifies that authorities don’t know when the blast occurred, but that remnants from the explosion were found before classes began.