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Pipe bomb explodes before charity run in New Jersey; no injuries

Police gather at a command center in Seaside Park, N.J. on Saturday, Sept. 17.
(Peter Ackerman/The Asbury Park Press via Associated Press)

A pipe bomb exploded in a New Jersey shore town Saturday shortly before thousands of runners were to participate in a charity 5-kilometer race to benefit Marines and sailors, authorities said.

No injuries were reported in the blast in Seaside Park around 9:30 a.m., said Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor’s office. He said no structures were damaged.

The FBI has taken over as the lead agency in the investigation. But officials would not say whether they believe the incident was terrorism-related or if they suspect participants in the third annual Semper Five run were targeted.

Brad Cohen, the acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s office in Newark, would not discuss the matter at length during a brief news conference Saturday evening. He also declined to take questions from reporters, citing the “active, ongoing” investigation.

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The race had been scheduled to start shortly before the blast occurred, but it was delayed because of the large number of people registering for the race and reports of an unattended backpack being found. Della Fave noted that if the race had started on time, a “good number of people” would have been running past the area where the explosion occurred.

The race was canceled, and the immediate area was locked down. Several homes near the scene were evacuated as a precaution, though those residents were allowed to return home early Saturday night. However, authorities said several beaches in the area would remain closed until further notice.

The pipe bomb was in a plastic garbage can when it exploded, Della Fave said, but the immediate area where the blast occurred was mostly empty at the time. Authorities cleared the boardwalk and beach area, and bomb-sniffing dogs were used to search the area.

Shortly after the blast occurred, Della Fave told reporters at the scene that preliminary reports said there may have been other devices connected to the pipe bomb, but those devices apparently had not gone off.

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New Jersey State Police said later in the day that bomb technicians “rendered safe” items located in a plastic trash can where the explosion occurred; they did not specify what those items were or provide further details, citing the ongoing investigation. They also said reports of another explosive device near the site were incorrect.

Chad Ruedin, who was walking along the boardwalk when the blast occurred, told News12 New Jersey that when he heard the explosion, he initially thought it was the start of the 5K race. But then, Ruedin said, he thought to himself, “That was one hell of a start to a race.”

Ruedin said he soon saw smoke coming from the garbage can and saw other debris in the area, though he didn’t know whether those items were parts of the can or trash that had been inside it.

Numerous state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were involved in the investigation. Atty. Gen. Christopher Porrino and Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the State Police, briefed Gov. Chris Christie on the investigation.

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“Working with the FBI and ATF, we are taking every step to ensure the safety of the public and to determine who was responsible for this explosion, which occurred at a time when runners in this charity race could have been in harm’s way,” Porrino said in a statement. “We are grateful that nobody was injured, but this is a serious act of violence against the people of New Jersey. We will not rest until we find the person or persons responsible.”

It wasn’t clear when the boardwalk and beach would reopen. Some other community events went on as planned in nearby towns Saturday, though officials said security at those sites had been stepped up in the wake of the blast.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the charity race would be rescheduled.

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UPDATES:

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4:00 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details throughout.

This article was originally published at 11:15 a.m.


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