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Area 151 nightclub hit by Thanksgiving morning explosion

ST. ROBERT, Mo. (Nov. 27, 2008) — St. Robert police, state fire marshals, and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are aggressively seeking a man they believe may be connected to an early-morning explosion on Thanksgiving morning at Area 151, a popular nightclub in St. Robert near Fort Leonard Wood.

It's not yet clear what caused the explosion, but no one was injured and property damage was confined to the front foyer of the nightclub. Soldiers were not targeted, according to St. Robert Police Chief Curtis Curenton.

"I just want people to have confidence this was not terrorism in our city," Curenton said, responding to rumors he said have been circulating since the early-morning incident.

St. Robert Fire Department logs show the explosion triggered a fire alarm at 2:42 a.m., with firefighters arriving just three minutes later at the unoccupied building. An investigation is ongoing by St. Robert police, Curenton said, and a reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the explosion.

"We are aggressively investigating this along with the ATF," Curenton said. "We do not believe this is in any way international-type terrorism like we're involved in with the War on Terror."

The nightclub is regularly open three nights per week from 8 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and there are no plans to close this weekend, according to club management. All damage was repaired by Thursday afternoon.

Police have determined that an explosive device was detonated in front of the building, according to a prepared statement issued Thursday afternoon by Detective Greg Snyder. Snyder said witnesses saw a thin male running from the explosion described as being about 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9 in height, wearing a gray hoodie sweatshirt with moderately baggy blue jeans. He entered what witnesses believe was a dark blue or black Chevrolet Malibu with a model year from 1995 to 2001 and sped away, Snyder said.

Anyone with additional information about the man seen running from the scene or about the explosion may contact Snyder at (573) 451-2000 ext 1508.

Fire Chief Chuck Fraley said Thanksgiving fire calls are very unusual in St. Robert.

“It’s been a few years since we’ve had one of these; we’ve had a pretty quiet Thanksgiving for the last few years,” Fraley said.

Fraley said it’s standard procedure to call for immediate backup from the Waynesville Rural Fire Protection District and Pulaski County Ambulance District, but those agencies were cancelled before they had time to arrive.

“Upon arriving on the scene, the front window was shattered and light smoke was coming through the window,” Fraley said. “There was no fire, and between myself and the police department, we looked at the scene and realized it would be more of a crime investigation than a fire scene. Once there is no fire anymore, if it looks suspicious, it becomes a possible crime scene.”

Eleven St. Robert firefighters arrived with an engine and a command vehicle; a flatbed truck with floodlights was called later to illuminate the nightclub. A fire investigator later arrived and while most St. Robert firefighters went back to their station by 4:30 a.m. after it was determined they wouldn’t be needed, they returned at 7:11 a.m. to pick up their floodlights.

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