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Man arrested in connection with string of explosions in Bellingham

A 26-year-old man was arrested Friday in connection with a “series of explosions” that occurred in August and earlier this month near the north end of the city center.

Nicolas Zhann McNairy was booked into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of third-degree malicious explosion/having explosives, second-degree malicious mischief of more than $750 and third-degree malicious mischief of more than $50.

McNairy was identified as a suspect through witness statements and video evidence, Bellingham Police said in a news release. He was arrested at his home, which is not far from the scene of the explosions.

In early September, detectives were investigating a string of explosions that occurred near the north end of the city center.

Two explosions were reported at 1:45 a.m. on Aug. 16 near the bridge on the 1500 block of Ellis Street. The explosion damaged the bridge. Some 15 minutes later, a third explosion was reported in the bus shelter in the 400 block of York street, authorities said.

“Officers found burn marks consistent with two explosions on the bridge, as well as burn damage consistent with an explosion in the Whatcom Transit Authority bus shelter,” said Lt. Danette Beckley, a Bellingham Police spokeswoman, in a new release.

At 3:45 a.m. on Sept. 5, another explosion was reported near the 400 block of York Street.

“Responding officers found heavy smoke in the area, as well as significant damage to a WTA bus shelter,” Beckley said. “Evidence found at the scene is consistent with an explosion occurring in the shelter. The explosion caused the plastic glass on the sides and roof of the shelter to shatter.”

A witness near that explosion told police of seeing two males running from the area. Video evidence showed two males who matched the description enter the bus shelter. There was a flash consistent with an explosion, then the two males ran, according to the news release.

The explosives were described as “looking like a big firecracker,” Beckley said.

Total damage was around $4,200, Beckley added.

B.J. Ortega, primary traffic officer with the Hazardous Devices Unit, said the devices were explosives and not pyrotechnics or mortars. Ortega said officers weren’t sure if the devices were commercially made or homemade, noting other similar devices are usually homemade – devices like the one used in the incidents are usually ignited by some type of fuse.

“Public safety is a huge concern,” Ortega said. “Any time you come across a device you think is explosive in nature, you can’t handle it. Do not pick it up. Call 911.”

The investigation is ongoing and police anticipate more arrests.

Those with information about the incidents are asked to call Bellingham Police Department at 360-778-8611. Tips can also be made online at cob.org/tips.

This story will be updated.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

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