BEMIDJI -- After more than a month, the Bemidji Police Department released some details on Wednesday morning of an investigation into dumpsters filled with accelerants found around the downtown area on May 30, following “credible threats against the city of Bemidji.”
The investigation is still underway, and law enforcement is looking for community help in identifying those responsible.
In the statement, Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin explained the decision to look into the dumpsters in the first place.
“While planning for the demonstration on May 30 a decision was made to preemptively empty the dumpsters and trash receptacles in the downtown area to prevent potential property damage,” he said. “This decision was based on training, tips from the public and the recent events which transpired in Minneapolis the evening prior.”
During the emptying, Waste Management employees told law enforcement they observed an odor of gasoline after dumping some of the dumpsters in the downtown, Mastin said.
A Waste Management representative, Julie Ketchum, earlier clarified six dumpsters were found laden with accelerants in a June 3 interview with the Pioneer.
The dumpsters were filled with flammable materials and seemed to include makeshift wicks made from socks soaked in gasoline, she said.
They “likely would’ve caused significant damage,” if the materials were to catch fire, Ketchum said. “We were directed by (Beltrami) County to take the materials to a site that they had approved.”
In interviews with Waste Management employees, detectives were told large amounts of cardboard, cut up fence posts, broken pallets, along with leaves and thistles were found in numerous dumpsters, Mastin said.
In his statement, Mastin did not state the total number of defiled dumpsters, but named five specific dumpsters that detectives found suspicious.
“Specifically, a large dumpster behind the Fourth Street ARCO gas station smelled strongly of gasoline. Most of the dumpsters in the area behind Fozzie’s Smokin' Bar-B-Q extending west in the alley across Beltrami Avenue to Minnesota Avenue at (Bar 209), contained these items,” Mastin said.
“Near the area of Junkin’ Treasures a trash receptacle was located which was full of thistles, grass and contained a charcoal lighter fluid container. Near the (4-West Offices) an FBI agent noticed that a large dumpster used for a remodeling project contained pallets and bags filled with yard debris. A dumpster behind the Wild Hare Bistro smelled strongly of kerosene and contained a large amount of paper and pallet pieces.”
The investigation into these dumpsters and their contents is still underway. The Bemidji Police Department is asking the public to help identify those responsible for placing the items in question into trash receptacles.
Those with information are asked to call Detective Sergeant Seaberg at (218) 333-8376.