Barrie police have confirmed that an “improvised explosive device” attached to a car partially exploded Wednesday morning in the parking lot of an apartment building.
Police, fire, and paramedics responded to a call about an explosion at 108A Anne St. near Edgehill Drive in Barrie just before 3 a.m. Wednesday, said Peter Leon, corporate communications coordinator with Barrie police.
The explosion happened in a vehicle parked in the parking lot of 108A Anne St. and not in the building itself.
Leon said a homemade explosive device was found 10 to 12 feet from the vehicle in a nearby garden.
“We don’t know if it was part and parcel of the initial device, and it got dislodged as a result of the explosion, but it was identified as an improvised explosive device,” Leon said.
The Barrie police explosive disposal unit worked to safely detonate the improved device around 8:30 a.m.
“Upon arrival at the scene, Barrie Fire made an observation which immediately caused Barrie police to respond with the appropriate measured response based on that observation,” Leon said.
“At that time, a vehicle was located that sustained significant damage due to the ongoing investigation.”
The apartment buildings around the parking lot were evacuated, with city buses being used to keep evacuees warm. Leon confirmed around 2:30 p.m. that the shelter-in-place is being lifted.
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After residents were moved to city buses to stay warm, Leon noted they received a call from Harvest Bible Chapel on George Street, which opened its doors to the evacuated residents until it was safe for them to return to their homes.
A resident told Global News seniors primarily occupy the building adjacent to the parking lot.
Police had the area blocked off for hours, unsure if other explosive devices were in the area, but none were found.
“In that immediate area, a number of high-rise buildings, they have a retirement home, they have a residential community just to the north. A great deal of patience and understanding had to be undertaken by a lot of people whose lives and day-to-day routine were significantly impacted,” Leon said.
A daycare is also located metres from where the vehicle blew up, and families in the area had to walk their kids to and from school while the area was blocked to vehicle traffic.
“To know that that happened right around here is pretty scary, especially when there’s so many kids in the area,” said local resident Shanna Laker.
No injuries were reported due to the explosion or the response to it.
“We don’t see very much of this happen in our community, and we’re very grateful for that, but when it does, rest assured our community can sleep tonight knowing that the very police have people trained and qualified to safely and professionally deal with these type of situations should they arise,” Leon said Wednesday.
Barrie police had closed an area from Wellington at Anne Street to Kevin Drive at Anne and Leacock Drive and Ferndale Drive, including the Anne Street Bridge, but it has since reopened.
Ontario Provincial Police are assisting the forensic investigation unit with the case.
Police say it is unknown at this time why someone created the homemade explosive device.
In an update Thursday, Leon said that it’s still too early in the investigation to know if the attack was targeted or random, though he said police have some initial suspicions.
“Given the fact there were so many vehicles in the parking lot, why that one car? That’s one of the questions we have: why that one vehicle? So there is a strong possibility it could have been a targeted incident,” Leon said.
As of Thursday, Leon said police are canvassing the area for any information that could lead to the person or people responsible.
“We have a starting point, and that’s with the vehicle where the explosion happened, and certainly that’s where the investigation is. The why and how this happened are yet to be determined, but I’m very confident that the investigators will get to the bottom of it,” Leon said.
Police are asking anyone with information or who may have dash camera video and was travelling in the Anne Street and Edgehill Drive area at the time of the incident to call Barrie police at 705-725-7025.