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Possible Car Bomb in Michigan Seriously Injures Attorney, Two Sons

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“This was not an intent to injure; this was an intent to kill."

A car burns near Interstate 75 Sept. 20, 2011, in Monroe, Mich., after it exploded, seriously injuring a local attorney and his two sons. (AP Photo/The Monroe Evening News)

MONROE, Mich. (The Blaze/AP) -- Investigators on Wednesday were poring over the blackened remains of a vehicle that exploded on a Michigan street, trying to determine if the blast, which seriously injured the man and two children inside, was caused by a bomb or some sort of mechanical failure.

Monroe police initially said they were investigating the Tuesday evening explosion as a possible car bombing. But police Lt. Charles Abel said later Wednesday the investigation was "being listed as a car fire with an explosion." He didn't discount that a bomb could have caused the blast.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were examining the wreck, and police said the agency would likely take the lead in the investigation. The ATF did not immediately respond to Wednesday phone requests seeking comment. Authorities were expected to hold a news conference later in the day.

The blast occurred on a tree-lined street under a highway in Monroe, which is about 35 miles southwest of Detroit. Television news footage showed that the vehicle had been turned into a charred shell. On Wednesday morning, the only sign of the fire at the scene was charred pavement where the vehicle burned.

Police said the only people injured were the three occupants, a man and two children, who were in serious condition at St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, which is about 20 miles south of Monroe. According to the Monroe Evening News, the driver was local attorney Erik G. Chappell and his two sons, believed to be ages 11 and 13.

"This was not an intent to injure; this was an intent to kill," a family friend told the Evening News, who declined to be identified. "Everybody's going to make it, but there's a lot of heartache ahead. I'm still in shock."

Sources told the Evening News that Chappell, a divorce lawyer, has been receiving threats:

He is a divorce attorney also involved with several high-profile Monroe County cases, including hot dog stand owners who sued the city in 2009 after they were banned from operating their carts.

It has not been determined if a suspect in the bombing has been developed, but police sources said there are so-called persons of interest.

It is believed the device was placed underneath the passenger side of the Chappell car. One of the boys was sitting in the passenger seat and suffered serious lower extremity injuries, especially to his legs.

The bomb may have contained shrapnel, because all three victims suffered wounds from flying debris, officials said.

There were no witnesses in the vicinity where the bomb exploded. It was believed that Mr. Chappell was able to drag his sons from the car, which quickly became engulfed in flames. The shell of the car is being stored at a secure area.

An FBI spokeswoman in Detroit referred questions to local police and the ATF. State police, which also assisted, referred questions to local police.

Monroe is a city of more than 20,000 that is one of Michigan's oldest communities. It has a historic downtown and is home to furniture maker La-Z-Boy Inc.

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