One hurt, two arrested following explosion

Incident occurred Saturday in garage off Highway 8


Clint Riese
News Editor

Two local men have been charged with a felony following an explosion Saturday that left a third man in critical condition.

Police and firefighters from Wyoming responded just before noon to a report of an injured male in the 7000 block of Lake Boulevard (US-8). They found 47-year-old David Gustafson with burns to his hands, arms and face. He was transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where he remained in critical condition Monday.

While investigating the cause of the explosion, which took place in a detached garage, Wyoming police noticed materials consistent with the manufacturing of fireworks. They obtained a search warrant and uncovered a small, illegal manufacturing operation involving 2- to 3-inch, mortar-style, aerial fireworks.

“Kudos to the officers on scene who originally noted that something wasn’t right,” said Wyoming Public Safety Director Paul Hoppe.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the St. Paul Bomb Squad were called in to assist in the identification, handling, processing and disposing of evidence and explosives.

“It was quite the operation,” Hoppe said. “It spanned about a 12-hour period.”

The North Metro  hazmat team, Chisago County Emergency Management, Forest Lake Fire Department and investigators from Chisago County also responded.

Two arrested

Police arrested Timothy Kenneth Gray, 33, of Forest Lake, and David Michael Walsh, 38, who lives at the residence at which the incident took place.

The criminal complaint alleges the following:

Gustafson approached the first officer on scene saying “I got burned” repeatedly.

Walsh and another man on scene said they had no idea what caused the burns.

After medical and fire personnel arrived, Gray was found near a single-stall garage spraying at smoke with a garden hose. He said he did not know what happened.

The officer observed a scent of sulphur coming from the garage, which contained multiple large drums and buckets.

The parties on scene were separated and interviewed. Walsh hesitated to provide information until he was told it was a matter of public safety. He then mentioned fireworks and black powder.

Search warrants were signed for three garages/sheds on the property. Between the buildings, 187 items were inventoried, including explosives, fuses and jars of chemicals.

In a separate interview, Gray said he and Walsh are members of a professional fireworks club and that he has built fireworks at Walsh’s property several times.

Gray and Walsh appeared in Chisago County District Court Monday. Each face one count of aiding and abetting possessing, manufacturing or storing explosive or incendiary devices, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years and $20,000 fine.

Bail was set for each defendant at $30,000 unconditional or $10,000 conditional. They are prohibited from possessing explosives or pyrotechnics. Walsh is next scheduled to appear at 1 p.m. on June 3. Gray is next scheduled to appear at 1 p.m. on June 26.

Charges have not been filed against Gustafson, though the case remains under investigation.