Two arrested with dozens of homemade explosive devices

John Green

Investigators say they may have solved the source of explosions Hutchinson residents have been hearing sporadically over the past several weeks with the arrest of two men on Saturday with some 80 homemade explosive devices in their truck.

The two 18-year-olds were stopped by South Hutchinson Police about 10 p.m. Saturday after they received several tips that there was an individual in town with the improvised explosive devices in his truck.

“We did some investigative work on it and found out who owned the vehicle,” said South Hutchinson Police Chief Dean Harcrow. “We located it around State Street and Poplar Street and a traffic stop was initiated.”

After they discovered a tote full of completed explosive devices in the truck, as well as materials for unmade devices, they blocked off a two-block radius around the stop and evacuated homes within a half-block of the truck, Harcrow said.

Residents were out of their homes for several hours while police waited on federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and processed the scene.

“The ATF considered them to be IED’s,” Harcrow said. “They said 72 of them were the equivalent of a quarter stick of dynamite and 10 of them equaled a half stick of dynamite. They were making them at a residence out in the county and selling them individually to other individuals in Reno County.”

In the United States, it is illegal to manufacture or possess explosives larger than an M80 without a federal high explosives manufacturing license.

“They were ordering stuff off the internet to make them,” Harcrow said. “They included powdered potassium chlorate and aluminum powder in cardboard tubes. They had fuses.”

Besides the finished products, they found in another tote fuses, powder, funnels, and empty shells.

Harcrow said investigators suspect devices sold by the pair are what residents have been hearing explode in the late evening around Hutchinson. They have not confirmed that yet, however, he said.

Hutchinson Police and the Reno County Sheriff’s office are both assisting in further investigation, Harcrow said. Wichita ATF agents Neal Tierney and Jason Fuller seized the devices.

“We’re still doing follow up,” he said. “The investigation is ongoing. There might be more people involved, but we’re still looking into that.”

The two men – Tyler Bryce Bontrager, who lives in the county, and Andrew A. Hoffman, South Hutchinson – were booked into the county jail on charges of criminal use of explosives, Harcrow said. Both men bonded out.