A bomb stuffed inside a manila envelope exploded in a downtown apartment early Tuesday when a man opened the package, apparently thinking it contained an inhaler, police said. The victim was hospitalized with face, hand and chest injuries.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said it was an "actual device" that the resident activated — it wasn't remotely set off — which was meant to injure.
The 62-year-old, who had arrived home after being out of town, opened a package that he thought contained medication for an inhaler and there was an explosion around 4 a.m. Tuesday, his partner told police. The package was placed, not delivered by the postal service to his apartment on the 1800 block of Pine Street on Monday, said Ross.
"It clearly was sent to that individual," Ross said. "It was addressed to him."
Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon the envelope contained some type of shrapnel and caused "substantial damage" to appliances in the kitchen. The man's most serious injuries involved his left hand. Medics took the victim to Jefferson Hospital where he was listed in stable condition. He was able to speak to investigators, said police.
The man, who works as a caterer, opened the package near the stove in the kitchen of the apartment he shares with his partner, leading police to initially believe the blast may have been an accidental explosion caused by an inhaler getting too close to heat.
"We don't know whether this was a bomb mailed to the house... or whether this was just some sort of freak accident where something like an inhaler exploded," Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said at first.
Philadelphia Bomb Squad, ATF officers and postal inspectors searched for clues in the first-floor kitchen Tuesday.
Authorities have not seen the type of explosive device in Philadelphia before, Sullivan said, but they are "familiar with it in other areas of the world." Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent Sam Rabadi said the device is being analyzed an ATF laboratory. Investigators are running down a number of leads but have no motive yet, Rabadi said.
"We are going to look at every possible motive that comes across our radar," he said.
The package was "target specific," Ross said. It wasn't immediately clear if police know or suspect who sent the package, or why. Other details about the device were not immediately available but investigators didn't consider it an act of terrorism, said Ross.
Aly King and Brian Muldoon live two doors down from the townhouse where the blast happened and said they didn't hear any explosion, but their dog woke up around 3:45 a.m.
King said she let her puppy out in the backyard and that is when she heard firefighters in the alley, shuffling garbage cans, and saw emergency vehicles filling the street. They said they had never met the victim.
"It's kind of a peculiar time of day to open a package, at 4 a.m.," Muldoon said.
Ten residents were evacuated from nearby apartments, but were allowed to return after the bomb squad cleared other packages.
The victim's roommate told police that the man often receives medical inhalers in the mail. He was home at the time of the blast but was uninjured.
Pine Street remained closed around into the Tuesday morning rush.