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A man’s body was found at Fitzsimmons Park at about 5:48 a.m. this morning, Sept. 14, by a man walking his dog, said Commander Tom Guenther, public information officer of the Evanston Police Department. The park, located at Elmwood Avenue and Lee Street, is adjacent to Nichols Middle School.
When police arrived on the scene, they saw what appeared to be an explosive device next to the body. The man had two explosive devices; one exploded and took his life, and the other remained operational, said the Commander.
Police called in the Cook County Bomb Squad, which detonated the second bomb on the site. Commander Guenther said the operational bomb appeared to be a pipe bomb that could be detonated with a fuse.
The bomb squad locked down the area and went door to door in the area to make sure residents were secure; they evacuated a portion of the area. The bomb squad searched the area on the possibility there could be a second explosive device.
Evanston police and NORTAF began their investigation after the bomb squad determined the area was safe.
While the incident occurred near Nichols school, the Commander said it occurred at a City park, and police have not determined there is any connection to the school. He said police have been working closely with School District 65 administrators. District 65 issued an announcement before school opened that Nichols would be closed today, Sept. 14.
At a press conference held in mid-afternoon on Sept. 14, Commander Guenther said Nichols school would also be closed tomorrow, Sept. 15. He initially said police would be continuing their investigation tomorrow, and it would be appropriate to close the school to protect the crime scene. He subsequently suggested that police may be keeping the school closed in the exercise of caution. “We will always err on the side of safety,” he said.
The deceased man resided in the 1000 block of Main Street, said the Commander. His apartment was searched, and an FBI forensic team is going through his computer.
The Commander declined to give the man’s name until relatives were notified of his death. He said he did not know the age of the man, and did not know if another person resided in the same apartment as the man, but added that these and other details were under investigation. He said police were working with another police department who knew of the man, but he declined to identify the police department or the reason the man was known to the police department.
Commander Guenther said the man sustained a lot of injury, but declined to comment on the condition of the body or any other details, saying that police were continuing their investigation.
When newscasters asked if people should be afraid, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said, “Of course, people are worried at this time.” She said, though, the Evanston Police Department and the County Bomb Squad have done an excellent job, and that she had confidence they would continue to do an excellent job.
Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson said he had two children who attend Nichols school. He said this is a highly unusual situation. “Everyone should be vigilant,” he said.
Police had received a call from an area resident at about 3:56 a.m. that the resident heard an explosion in the area of the 1000 block of Sherman Avenue, but the resident did not give an exact location. Police went to the area at that time, but were not able to determine the source of the explosion, and they did not see the body in Fitzsimmons Park at that time.