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November 23, 2016

Police identify Philadelphia man injured by envelope bomb

Investigations Explosions
Pine street explosive device Jon Tuleya/for PhillyVoice

The 1800 block of Pine Street remained closed Tuesday afternoon as Philadelphia police continued to investigate a package that exploded inside the apartment of a resident there in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

Authorities have identified the Philadelphia man injured when a package bomb detonated inside his Center City apartment early Tuesday morning.

James Alden, 62, remained in stable condition following surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

According to police, Alden and his 32-year-old partner live in the apartment where a manila envelope was apparently delivered Monday. The device inside exploded when Alden opened it about 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Investigators analyzing the bomb, which included some type of shrapnel, said the device is atypical to Philadelphia. It has been sent to FBI headquarters for testing. 

It came packaged in a padded envelope that the victim mistook for an inhaler or medication, investigators said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. They do not know when it arrived at the victim's apartment or how it got there.

"Upon it being opened by the victim, it detonated," said Sam Rabadi, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "It exploded. Essentially, the way it was constructed, it was so when you opened the envelope, it detonated." 

Rabadi said the device appears "a little different" from others investigators have seen in Philadelphia. But he declined to elaborate on its physical construction.

The victim, whose name was not released, sustained injuries to his left hand, face and chest, investigators said. He is stable condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital after undergoing surgery to treat his injuries.

Investigators said the crime scene along the 1800 block of Pine Street did not turn up any other suspected explosive devices. 

"As far as I know, there were no threats prior to this and no threats since," Police Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

Investigators believe the man was targeted, but are still working to determine a suspect and a motive. Agents from ATF, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspectors are jointly investigating the case alongside Philadelphia police.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said investigators have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime but are not currently investigating it as such. He also said there is no evidence suggesting the explosion is related to any terrorist group at the moment. 

"We just got to look at everything," Ross said. "We're going to continue to work this case along with our partners and see where it leads us."

The man opened the package near the stove in the kitchen of the apartment he shares with a roommate, leading police to initially believe the blast may have been an accidental explosion caused by an inhaler getting too close to heat.

The damage from the blast was confined to the kitchen and included broken glass, investigators said. The victim's roommate did not report any injuries. 

"This is not something we see every day in our city here," Rabadi said. "We will use every available resource to try to identify the person responsible for this violent crime."

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.

Aly King and Brian Muldoon live two doors down from the rowhouse 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.

PhillyVoice staff writer John Kopp contributed to this report.