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Suspect throws homemade explosive before standoff ends

By Shara Park | Posted - Dec. 20, 2011 at 7:25 a.m.


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OREM -- A man involved in a standoff with Orem police threatened to blow up his house and threw something explosive into his front yard before surrendering.

Police say Joseph Harris, 38, barricaded himself in his house near 180 East and 980 North with a shotgun following an argument with his wife around 6:30 Monday night. Earlier in the evening, Harris had threatened to use a homemade explosive device if police showed up at the house.

Police say at one point during their negotiations with Harris, he threw something into the front yard that exploded.

Sgt. Craig Martinez with the Orem Police Department said, "It was loud enough that where we were standing a block and a half away, you could kind of feel it."

It turns out that Harris threw out a garbage bag containing acetylene, which ignited and caused the blast. No one was injured but it did make the situation more intense.

Officers evacuated 12 nearby homes; other residents were asked to stay in their basements while the situation was resolved. SWAT sent tear gas into the garage and through a window into the house. Then around 10:15 p.m. a negotiator convinced Harris to surrender.

"He's calm," Martinez said. "You can tell by his face that he's a little bit irritated by the tear gas we shot into the garage and home. But he's going to be just fine."

Harris was treated by paramedics then taken to the Utah County Jail. The bomb squad searched his house for explosives. No word yet on if they found anything.

E-mail: spark@ksl.com

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