Evanston’s Nichols Middle School remains closed at this hour after a man was killed in a bomb blast near the school in the early morning hours today.

Police look for evidence near where the body was found.

Evanston’s Nichols Middle School remains closed at this hour after a man was killed in a bomb blast near the school in the early morning hours today.

Police look for evidence near where the body was found.

Evanston police say they received phone calls from residents in the area around the school shortly before 4 a.m. reporting an explosion.

One witness said the blast set off alarms on several cars parked near his home.

Police units dispatched to the area didn’t immediately find anything, but shortly before dawn a man walking his dog in Fitzsimons Park just south of the school found a man’s body.

A Cook County Bomb Squad unit called to the scene determined that there were other potential explosive devices near the body, and the bomb squad conducted a controlled detonation of a device shortly after 9 a.m.

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Update 1:20 p.m.:

City officials now say the incident was apparently a suicide by gun shot and explosive. The victim appears to have fired a round thru a can of black powder thus causing the powder to exploded.

Police also cordoned off a mixed-use building at Main Street and Maple Avenue late this morning. A business owner with offices in the building said he was told police believed the building was the residence of the dead man and they feared they might find additional explosives in his apartment. No word yet on whether anything was actually found there.

End update

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Police Commander Tom Guenther talks to reporters at the scene.

Rhonda Present, the parent of a Nichols School student, said she was concerned about a delay in notifying parents of the incident, which left many students walking or being bused or brought by parents to the building ahead of the 8:35 a.m. school start time without knowing that they’d find the building surrounded by police and would be told they had to go back home.

But Alderman Don Wilson, whose 4th Ward includes the school site, said he believed the school district’s response — which included automated phone calls and e-mail messages — was adequate in the situation, given the relatively short time frame between the discovery of the body and the start of classes.

Related story

Nichols School likely to remain closed after blast

Man walking dog finds decapitated body

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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41 Comments

  1. They Had Enough Time

    According to the Tribune article, the man found the body at 5:15 am. District 65 was certainly informed by 7 am. (As it was "chaos" around the area by 6:30, according to a nearby resident). The emergency school closing center had the information by 7:45 am. So why didn’t parents get informed by D65 before they began bringing kids to school? What about kids who walked to school? Where are they now? DId they get sent home? Are their parents home?

    D65 once again drops the ball on informing parents. 

    1. Does the school have your correct phone number?

      This is a wake-up call for every parent in the D65 schools to double check that D65 had a correct home phone number and cell phone number for those who need to be contacted in an emergency.  I can tell you that I’ve called parent phone lists where number after number is disconnected.

      Also remember, only so many people know how that run that phone notification system.  If those folks don’t live in Evanston, they may have already been on the road to work and not able to get here any faster.   People are only human and can’t make a train go faster or the traffic part.

      1. Huh?

        "Also remember, only so many people know how that run that phone notification system.  If those folks don’t live in Evanston, they may have already been on the road to work and not able to get here any faster.   People are only human and can’t make a train go faster or the traffic part."

        So you’re saying that the people whose job it is to notify parents in an emergency aren’t on hand at the district before school starts?

        If the district knew about this at 7:00 am, which they did according to many sources, then why did it take them an hour and a half to notify parents. Why were kids boarding school buses going to a school that was closed? 

        If the district can call parents at 7 am to tell them that it isn’t a snow day, they can call them to tell them there is no school because of dead bodies or bombs in the area. 

        1. My child left for school

          My child left for school shortly after 8.  By 830, I had received a call from another student that the school was closed.  My child was home shortly thereafter. 

          The various news channels started announcing  of the school closing around 815-830am.

          I got the automated call from the district or school that the school was closed for the day…the call was received shortly after 9 am.

          There is no reason for this type of delay.

          1. You’re right, there is no reason for it…

            … and I hope that the D65 Board will at least raise the issue at the next Board meeting.  However, given Mr. Terry’s quote in the Tribune today, I don’t think there will be much interest in doing so. 

          2. Board meeting

            Maybe the board will take the phone numbers of all the complaining parents and personally call them the next time someone blows themself up near a school. 

    2. Are you kidding?

      First, the body was reported at 5:48.  An officer confirmed it probably at 6.  More officers were called to secure the area.  I’m sure the first priority was to check for immediate danger.  I would guess the district was called about 7 or 7:30.

      Teachers were helping direct kids who walked.  The Y was open for them.  Most are old enough to go home alone and call their parents to make arrangements (at least I would hope so if they are old enough to walk to school alone). 

      No matter what was done there would be people complaining.  Personally, I think that this situation has been handled as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

  2. McGaw YMCA offering Open Gym for Nichols Students

    Superintedent Hardy Murphy is directing parents to the McGaw YMCA (1000 Grove St, Evanston) which is assisting the community by offering free Open Gym to Nichols students 10AM-6PM today.

  3. The McGaw YMCA is open to Nichols students

    Today the McGaw YMCA is open to all Nichols students. Students will have access to the youth lobby, open gym from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, and open swim from 12:50 pm – 2:00 pm. Students do not have to be YMCA members to come into the Y. We welcome all and hope we can support the community during this time of uncertainty.

    1. Very nice of you to open up

      Very nice of you to open up the facilities with a situation that took place.  keep up the good work.

  4. Police

    How could the EPD not check completely an area where people reported hearing a loud explosion? Wouldn’t you think they’d comb the area or bring out their canine? Especially since the explosion was heard in an area with a school. The fact they didn’t search further should be investigated and questioned.

  5. Police observation?

    What a minute… Evanston police did not "immediately" find anything. Just how hard did they look? Probably as closely as they look when any resident calls them out to, say, confirm a burglary; which is to say, barely. 

  6. Danger to commuters?

    The train stations are within 2 blocks of the school.  This is a heavily populous place, 2 train stations.  Trains are a well-known target for nut jobs. No one commits suicide this way.  NO ONE.  Homeland Security should have been called, trains cancelled.  I ride those trains every morning, and there was not a single TV news announcement about ANYTHING at 8-8:15 a.m. 2 blocks away at the train station. 

    1. Obviously someone commits

      Obviously someone commits suicide this way. Two train stations!

      Good work making this all about you. Those kids are fine on their own, but goshdarnit we need to protect the commuter trains. 2 train stations, 2 blocks away!

      Two!

      1. Suicide bomber more like it.

        Is Alderman Wilson trying to get in the news by getting quoted a bunch of places that it’s just a suicide?  Typical way of doing it, most definitely, according to pathologists and news reporters alike.  The school, trains, pedestrians, all were in need of immediate attention.  If you like the danger so much, move to Inglewood, we won’t miss you.The story keeps changing and shrinking. City officials are calling it an apparent suicide situation now. A suicide bomber situation more like it. The way they described the position of the body leads me to believe that the guy had the bomb around his shoulder or on his back. Nobody commits suicide by pipebomb on a sidewalk alone in the dark at 4:30 am. I firmly believe that he was intending to take people with him. Whether that target had something to do with the Main Street Metra and/or El stop is up for scrutiny. He was only a block away from here. The body was found near the side walk on the south side of the school. At this point it’s pure speculation as to what his target was. He could have got off at either Belmont or Fullerton station to switch to the Red Line subway. He could have detonated it in the middle of Olgivie station. Or another target altogether. Until we find out who he was we can’t really discern a motive. I’m troubled by the official speculation. It leads me to believe that they are concerned about panic and are trying to pass it off as a random suicide attempt. They should have contacted homeland security and shut down public transporation until they were sure this was a random individual and not an orchestrated multiple terrorist attack scenario. The response to this shows how unprepared we are against an organized attempt to blow up public transportation by a real threat. 

        1. Another amateur gumshoe…

          So now this guy’s a "suicide bomber," eh?

          Good lord… Maybe you should wait until the investigation proceeds a bit further before pulling garbage like this out of your backside.

  7. Anyone Know About the Sealed Off Apt Building on Main Street?

    I live at the 1008 – 1012 Main St. apartment building (two blocks from the school) and at 10:30 it was sealed off with police tape…I am at work so I have no knowledge of what’s going on there.  Building management not picking up phone. Anyone know anything? Thanks so much!

    1. Main Street

      Hi Jenny,

      See the update added to the story above, or the latest story on the incident here.

      — Bill

  8. Suicide, my ear

     City officials now say the incident was apparently a suicide by gun shot and explosive. The victim appears to have fired a round thru a can of black powder thus causing the powder to exploded.

    That seems wrong to me based on the evidence that has been made public so far.  If one has intent to kill oneself, with access to a gun and a bomb, shooting the gun into the bomb would appear to be one of the least direct and least certain ways to do it.

    Seems far more likely that the guy was up to something much worse and had an accident, or was just terribly inept at whatever stupid thing he was up to.  I don’t see how you get suicide, though.

    1. I see now where the comment

      I see now where the comment was published. I don’t trust the fact that the source is identified as "city officials." 

      However, if the man did indeed kill himself, there’s no reason to believe he would have done so in the most efficient way. People who are at the brink of actually committing suicide are generally not thinking clearly.

      If the report of a shotgun is true, it’s certainly possible that was the best way he could think of at the time to detonate the black powder. The second bomb could have been his backup in case the first one didn’t work.

      I spoke with the neighbor that found the body. He said that the dead man’s legs were folded underneath him. This would be something that might happen if he was kneeling. The neighbor said the man’s head and neck were gone and he couldn’t see whether the man’s left arm was gone or underneath him. The neighbor also said that he didn’t notice any pool of blood, which may have been due to the bomb flash cauterizing the wound.

      There IS evidence that this can be reasonably considered a suicide. He went to an open area away from his apartment. He was in Fitzsimmons Park, in a secluded area near the tennis courts, a half-block away from the school. Why not in Grey Park, across the street from his home? Perhaps there was too much traffic, or perhaps he didn’t want to affect the residents of Albany Care.

      I hope we eventually find out why it happened.

  9. Wondering what it’s going to

    Wondering what it’s going to take for Evanston residents to demand competent police officers.

    They’re great on administering parking tickets.  Not so great on ending gang violence, ETHS violence, and downtown violence.  Unfortunately, our officers are really good at keeping all the violence in Evanston out of the public eye.  Very sad indeed.

    1. Clearly this is not “out of

      Clearly this is not "out of the public eye."  There’s been no information that indicates that this could have been prevented. Crime happens. Evanston isn’t a little farm village.

    2. So you demand competent

      So you demand competent police officers? What in this situation displays incompetence? The police in this town respond to hundreds if not a thousand or more "shots fired" or "loud noise" complaints each year. These calls come from ‘anonymous’ citizens that won’t even get up out of their beds to look themselves and then provide extremely vague information at best. The vast majority of these calls are unfounded and baseless. Furthermore, each one of these calls require a written report from the officer documenting what he/she saw or didn’t see. They are not allowed to simply drive by and do nothing.

       The Officers responded to this area appropriately. Several Officers got out of their cars, checked the immidiate area and reported they could not locate the source of the noise. Now I realize, the average, uninformed Evanstonian expects the Police to have the nose of a bloodhound, the ability to see in total darkness, see through walls, prevent all violence, and possess the investigating skills of a fictitional character on CSI. Well, sit down because I have some shocking news for you-this is real life, they are only human. I know you cannot comprehend why a Police officer failed to miss half of a corpse, lying between a fence and some bushes in a poorly lit park at 2 in the morning.

      Lastly, I will say this. You are sadly mistaken if you expect this police department or any other in this country to "end gang violence", end "downtown violence" and the violence at your beloved ETHS. Police can only disrupt it, displace it, or delay it. Police have no control over human nature.

      1. Reprimand the officers

         I’ll tell you exactly what displays incompetence:

        1. The police did not do a thorough job of investigating the area. If they would have, they would have found the body. That’s an indisputable fact. They had flash lights; they weren’t walking blindly in the dark. 

        2. The man walking his dog reported a strong smell of gun powder. That was at 5:15 A.M. Don’t you think the smell would have been even stronger when the police got there earlier?

        3. The officers dismissed the importance of the event, and that is NOT what a competent officer does. 

        The officers who responded to the call should be reprimanded for their incompetence. They got lucky that no one else–especially a student–got hurt. And the only reason they got lucky is because a pedestrian found the body instead of them. 

        Stop defending incompetent cops. If an employee screws up at work, they suffer consequences. Cops should be no exception to this rule. 

        1. “The area”

          Do you think anyone called and said "there was an explosion near the tennis courts at Nichols"?   Then the police showed up and missed it?

          Based on reports that the explosion was heard half mile away, I’m sure "the area" was quite substantial.  How, exactly, were they to find this body in a square mile?  Same thing with the scent.  I’m sure it was strong, but you had to be pretty close to smell it.

      2. Throwing stones

        You sound like you might be a cop, maybe in Evanston? Whether you are or not i have to say i agree with your comments. I live on the 900 blk of Elmwood and i’m ashamed to say that when i heard the explosion all i did was ask my wife "what the hell was that"? and went back to bed. DESPITE the fact my kids play at that park.

        Lord knows there are bad cops out there, but truth be told most do their jobs to the best of their ability. Evanston may not be small farm village, but it’s no major metropolis either, we don’t have an army of cops at our disposal. I won’t fault the police for not finding the body before the dog walker did.

        There was no way to pinpoint the source or location of the explosion. What concerns me most is the lack of public info on this…obvoously the police need time to investigate, but the idea this was suicide just doesn’t sound right.

        This guy was up to something terrible and i’m starting to get a bit freaked out with thoughts about what if this happen at 4pm instead at 4am? ALL the neighborhood kids play at that park!

        Honestly makes me want to organize a neighborhood watch/patrol…maybe even arm-up!

        1. You are correct in many

          You are correct in many things you say. I also agree that, just as in any occupation, there are good employees and bad employees. There are lazy, inept, over-promoted, discouraged, malcontented, abusive, and unqualified people in every occupation in the world. Does Evanston P.D. have it’s share? Absolutely. But, as a whole the Evanston Police Department is comprised of quality, well intended and well trained individuals who do an oustanding job on a day to day basis.

          I dare any one of the critics to take the place of those responding officers who spent all morning locating body parts in trees, bushes, and the roadway. Only to have to hear about how they screwed things up by "anonymous" detractors who type away on their Blackberries while drinking Starbucks.

          Lastly, I too agree wholeheartedly that this was no suicide. This man had a plan to create chaos this morning. Where and to whom may never be known. I believe also that he intended to end his terror with "suicide by cop". That is to say he would force responding officers (Evanston or otherwise) to end his act by killing him. This is my opinion only. Only by Devine intervention his planned act, whatever it may have been, was thwarted.

          It’s a bit easier for the community to accept a suicide by a disturbed individual rather than what more likely was to occurr.

  10. just a suicide?

    The fact that children were in the vacinity a decapitated body and explosives is unsafe and frankly scary.

    Also, I don’t believe that this is a suicide situation, I believe someone meant harm to others. As I have read in other articles concerning this situation, there was enough explosive power in the first detonated bomb to shake buildings and wake occupants for several blocks. In what suicide situation would a person need two bombs with such explosive force? I think this may have been intended as a threat to the school or the neighborhood. To write it off as just a suicide is naive and endangering.

     

  11. Good police work

    I can’t believe all of the complaints about the police’s inability to find a body in the bushes at 4:00 in the morning.  The calls about the explosion covered over a square mile.  That’s a lot of territory to cover.  And if you’ve ever read the police blotter, there are reports of gun shots on a very frequent basis that are unsubstantiated.  If every call resulted in calling out the dogs and searching blocks and blocks I can sure imagine all of the complaints about "wasteful  spending" in the police department. 

    How could the police possibly have know the seriousness of this incident?

    1. 100% accurate

      Absolutely the best reply to all the critics. Thousands of these calls come in each year, with 99% of them being unfounded. This isn’t CSI Evanston.

    2. Police: Use bright lights when bomb reported

      Just a suggestion to use big bright lights when a bomb is reported instead of a couple of squad cars and flash lights. The witnesses I spoke with called in an EXPLOSION that sounded like a bomb.  NOT GUNSHOTS.  Definitely great police work.  Is this a cop or an Alderman or a journalist actually writing these comments?  Are you terribly objective?

      1. No, I’m just an average reasonable citizen

        and I found your comments ridiculous.  Did the witnesses you spoke to know where the explosion occured?  Did they report that it was at that particular park?  Can you possibly imagine big bright lights shining in windows on 12 blocks (at least) in Evanston at 4:00 am?  Where would the manpower come to do that?  How happy would the citizens be if – as in MOST situations – it was not serious?

         

        1. If only…

           If only the library were properly staffed and funded this probably never would have happened and even if it had I’m sure the librarians would have been able to find the body, even though half the time they can not find a book when asked. Maybe the sculpture on top of the parking garage across from the theaters could provide the man power, thats two men right there and they cost the city close to $200,000. (Note sarcasm) 

          Which is better to underfund people? Public safety, or libraries and public art? The City needs to make good decisions based on what is in the best interest of the City, not in the best interest of a small number of outspoken individuals minds. I’m sure the council will make sure to find the money to reconfigure the tennis courts and park at Nichols school though because it will just be too traumatic for the neighbors to know somebody died there (again sarcasm).

  12. Two comments on police and suicide

    Comment 1: I think it’s always easy to look around for people to blame, and it isn’t very productive right now to start sounding off about the police.  We’re all on the same side.  Having said that, I am wondering whether it might be useful to have police dogs accompany officers investigating reports of explosions- obviously it is not going to be easy for a human to find a hidden body but dogs seem to be good at that sort of thing.  

    Comment 2: I think it hardly matters at the moment whether this was suicide. It seems obvious to me that the person intended a great deal of harm to a larger target than himself.  

    1. I read comments like this and I wonder…

      It seems obvious to me that the person intended a great deal of harm to a larger target than himself. 

      It seems "obvious" to you based on what, exactly? What information leads anyone to think one way or another at this point? Perhaps the best course of action is to quit speculating and let the investigation take its course.

       

       

  13. EPD Response

    I have to say, if you have explosives, you would think when EPD responded to the area, they would have smelled the smoke. Am I missing something here?

     

     

    1. Unless they had super scent powers

      They may not have come close enough to smell the scent.  The exact location of the explosion was unknown.

  14. trolls

    It would be nice to hear that all of the negative, misinformed or noninformed posters on this story were going to switch vocations and become members of the EPD, early responders, 911 operators, D65 representatives, Parks & Recreation, City Council, or any other public official that might in some way impact our lives as citizens of Evanston.

    That way we could all be assured that there would be only a perfect world of sunshine and lollipops where everything is accomplished to exacting standards at all times (as dictated by the Trolls) without any trace of the flaws and imperfections that populate the corrupt world in which we (according to Trolls) live in currently.

    Thank you Trolls for trying to better my world with your subjective and non-factual opinions. I look forward to seeing you in uniform, working diligently for the safety of our community.

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