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2008 story: Blast near Red Wing brings felony charges

A man suspected of preparing an explosion that rumbled throughout the Red Wing, Minn., area was arrested Tuesday morning at his Welch Township home.

Brian Wesley Childs, 30, faces multiple charges in connection with a massive explosion set off on his property Sunday, which sent Prairie Island nuclear generating personnel into high alert.

Charges include acting with gross disregard for human life and destruction of property with an explosive or incendiary device -- both felonies.

Goodhue County authorities at 10:30 a.m. executed a search- and arrest-warrant at Childs' residence -- about a mile away from the nuclear plant, authorities said -- where officers took him into custody without incident.

The state fire marshal's office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were also along for the arrest.

According to a criminal complaint also filed Tuesday, Childs and a group of people gathered as a .50 caliber rifle was shot at a truck's dump box loaded with the explosive Tannerite. He told officers he legally purchased the explosives over the Internet.

Childs told police the Tannerite was mixed in a 15-gallon drum, which was placed in the dump box.

The complaint states Childs was cooperative with sheriff's deputies shortly after the blast, but clammed up when asked who fired the detonating shot. He "stated that he was not going to name anyone and refused to answer any more questions," the complaint states.

Authorities on Tuesday also released copies of a video recording taken during the detonation. A gunshot is heard, followed instantaneously by the sound and image of the dump box being blown to pieces.

Small and large pieces of shrapnel are seen flying across an open field, some pieces remaining airborne for several seconds.

Childs told deputies that he was 300 yards away from the explosion and that a large piece of metal sailed over him, his residence and Prairie Island Boulevard -- a street about a quarter mile from the blast site.

The blast was reportedly heard from as far away as Wacouta Township and Welch Village Ski Area.

Mike Wadley, site vice president of Xcel Energy's nuclear plant, said the facility was under heightened security from about 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday until officials could determine what happened.

Security personnel at the plant's gatehouse "heard a loud noise" and felt the station's windows rattle at about 5 p.m., Wadley said. Security staff then alerted local authorities and initiated heightened security procedures, he said.

Wadley said the plant returned to normal activity once investigators established the incident was "in no way associated with the Prairie Island nuclear generating plant."

"We take all this type of abnormal -- or suspicious -- activity very seriously," Wadley added.

According to the complaint, Childs told authorities he had detonated other large amounts of Tannerite on his property in the past, including some placed in a car.

If convicted of all eight charges he faces, Childs could face a maximum of more than 50 years behind bars and a $125,000 fine.

According to the complaint and court records, Childs has prior convictions for felony fourth-degree assault, criminal vehicular operation resulting in great bodily harm and creating a public nuisance.