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Police find van loaded with explosives in Philadelphia; looting and rioting continues in city despite curfew

At least 200 businesses, many of them already struggling in the midst of the pandemic, were the targets of massive looting across the city

Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Philadelphia police have launched an investigation after discovering a van that was reportedly loaded with explosives and suspicious items around 10 p.m. Wednesday night. The bomb squad and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were called in to assist with the investigation.

Inside the abandoned van were explosives, such as propane tanks, dynamite sticks, and torches, according to WPVI-TV. The van was reportedly found at Logan Circle, a large traffic circle with a park and gardens in Philly's Center City neighborhood in the city's museum district.

No one was in the van when police approached the vehicle, but an eyewitness told WCAU-TV that they saw a man running away from the van.

The identity of the owner of the van has not been revealed, and no arrests have been made.


Philadelphia police have reported that explosives have been used to try to breach ATMs during the riots. WTXF-TV reported that authorities responded to four reports of explosives being detonated near automated teller machines in North Philadelphia between 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday. Police say the cashboxes were still intact after the explosions and the suspects could not steal the money, but significant damage was done to the machines.

This week's protests that have escalated into looting and fiery riots were sparked by Monday's police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., who reportedly wielded a knife and charged at officers. Police fired 14 shots, killing Wallace.

During the first night of riots, dozens of businesses were looted, and at least 30 Philadelphia police officers were injured, 12 were hospitalized. Looting continued a second night in Philadelphia, including at a Five Below store, where BlazeTV reporter Elijah Schaffer was assaulted by looters.

Philadelphia instituted a citywide curfew from 9 p.m. Wednesday until 6 a.m. Thursday. Despite the curfew, there was still looting in the city on Wednesday night.

More than half of the stores in a northeast Philadelphia strip mall were vandalized Wednesday night, according to KYW-TV.

"One of the stores' managers told the station a group of about 12 to 15 people drove up to the shopping center at about midnight and went business by business, smashing doors and windows," KYW-TV news reporter Jan Carabeo noted.

In a different part of the city, a Lord & Taylor and other businesses were damaged by rioters.

No arrests were reported.

"City officials said at least 200 businesses, many of them already struggling in the midst of the pandemic, were the targets of massive looting across the city," WCAU-TV reported. "To assist police, an undetermined number of Pennsylvania National Guard troops will soon be arriving in the city."

"I have requested the assistance of the Pennsylvania National Guard," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. "Their role, first and foremost, will be to safeguard property and prevent looting. They will also provide assistance for our police department and other operational departments as needed."

The Pennsylvania National Guard troops will begin arriving in Philadelphia on Friday, Kenney said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw delivered an update regarding the investigation into the police shooting death of Wallace.

"As I said yesterday, this investigation has many moving parts and we are working hard to ensure that a fair and thorough investigation takes place," Outlaw said. "We plan on releasing premise history audio of 911 calls and bodycam footage of the discharging officers in the near future.

"We will be meeting with members of Mr. Wallace's family, to ensure they get an opportunity to view the materials first," Outlaw continued.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby commented on the investigation.

"We're calling on the city leadership to release the facts of this case, it's not hard, it's cut and dry. Release what you have," McNesby said.

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