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FBI, local police remain tightlipped over Beaver Dam apartment explosion investigation

If not for the testimony of a Wisconsin Department of Justice (WDOJ) special agent, we’d know very little about what occurred in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, last month.

On March 5, 2018, Benjamin Douglas Morrow inadvertently blew himself up inside apartment while mixing and heating volatile chemicals to make homemade explosives (HME).

Authorities responding to the scene of the explosion found explosive chemicals, guns, ammunition and white supremacist literature inside Morrow’s apartment, according to unsealed court documents related to the case. Investigators quickly surmised that Morrow was essentially operating a bomb-making lab inside his apartment, but have said nothing about potential targets, potential extremist ties, or possible motives.

In his testimony before the State of Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge (located in Dodge County), WDOJ Special Agent Kevin Heimerl stated that “during a limited search…conducted of Mr. Morrow's apartment, specifically within his bedroom, literature has been found concerning white supremacist groups.” 

“I believe based on my personal training and experience, that a group such as a white supremacist group will involve multiple members or people engaged in that type of membership or potential activities associated with the membership,” Heimerl said. While vague, Hemmer’s statements hint at an ongoing investigation into possible co-conspirators and Morrow’s potential ties to a white supremacist group or extremist individuals.

Repeated requests from Hatewatch this month to federal, state and local law enforcement authorities concerning the type of white supremacist material found in Morrow’s apartment yielded no additional details.

When asked about Morrow’s alleged white supremacist materials, Beaver Dam Police Chief, John Kreuziger responded, “I have no idea what those materials contained.” “The FBI took possession of it and I haven’t heard back from them,” Kreuziger told Hatewatch.

In response to multiple Hatewatch requests, a public affairs officer at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Milwaukee Field Office, responded, “the apartment explosion in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, remains an ongoing investigation in which the FBI is assisting.” Further, “U.S. Department of Justice policy prohibits our agency from commenting regarding pending investigations,” the FBI’s response reads.

“As I previously stated, the FBI cannot comment on pending investigations,” another FBI response states. “We do not put time limits or estimations on the completion of investigations.”

Of particular concern, containers labeled “TATP” were also found in Morrow’s apartment garage. Thirteen jars of a white crystalline substance was also reportedly found in Morrow’s refrigerator inside his apartment. According to media reports, police laboratory test results of the “white powder” and “white crystalline” substancesconfirmed it was triacetone triperoxide, orTATP, a highly volatile HME compound.

TATP is allegedly made with readily available household materials sold in stores or on the internet. TATP is sometimes referred to as  the “Mother of Satan” of bombs by international terrorist and homegrown grown violent extremists affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. TATP was used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the May 2017 terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, the June 2017 Brussels train station attack and the November 2015 Paris attack.

Furthermore, investigators found fully assembled IEDs, timers, gunpowder and instructions on how to make HME in Morrow’s apartment, garage and an offsite storage locker. Police also seized three long guns, two handguns, a ballistic helmet and vest, masks and more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

A few days after their search was completed, authorities had no choice but to burn down the entire apartment building because volatile bomb making residue had permeated parts of the walls and ceiling as well as the structural damage caused by the March 5 explosion.

The Beaver Dam Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation. Hatewatch will continue to monitor this situation and provide any updates concerning law enforcement’s investigation into Morrow’s possible ties to white supremacy.


Photo credit: Mark McMullen/The Daily Citizen via AP Images

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