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55-year-old Ashtabula Co. man killed in explosion while attempting to make IEDs in garage, officials say

Ashtabula IED explosion
Ashtabula County explosion
Ashtabula County IED explosion
Posted at 11:58 AM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 09:00:02-04

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A 55-year-old man died in an explosion Saturday while attempting to make improvised explosive devices in his garage, according to the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies were called to the 1300 block of Clay Street Saturday after receiving a report that the Jefferson Township Fire Department had been dispatched to the address.

Deputies learned that a man was trapped in the detached garage, and once on scene, they found the garage, located behind the residence, burned to the ground with debris scattered into the neighbor's yard.

“They are explosive devices, they could be along the lines with fireworks but a little more than that,” Ashtabula County Sheriff William Niemi said.

Neighbors described to News 5 how their homes shook after what they said was a half dozen explosions coming from the garage.

“The whole entire garage blew up, somebody needs to get here now,” a 911 caller described to a dispatcher.

The man, identified by deputies as 55-year old Michael Hopkins, was transported to University Hospitals Geneva Medical Center where he later died from his injuries.

Neighbors told authorities that the man was making the explosive devices in his garage to sell so that he could pay off a zero-turn riding lawn mower he recently purchased.

Sheriff Niemi said it’s not clear at this time if Hopkins had sold any explosives or how they were intended to be used.

Explosive device
Detectives snapped this picture of an "improvised explosive device" found at a Jefferson Township property after an explosion at a detached garage.

In Ohio, it is illegal to manufacture or sell any kind of homemade explosive device, whether fireworks or not.

“This can happen very easily to anybody,” Niemi said. “you got to know what you’re doing to handle this stuff. The moral of the story is you don’t want to mess with explosives.”

Due to the severity of the incident, the Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were called to the scene as well. The incident remains under investigation.

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