Unknown device forces evacuation of building

By Greg Rivara

A device thought to have been a bomb was taken out of a vacant apartment Wednesday afternoon as residents were evacuated from the building for an hour-and-a-half.

The device, found in College Square Apartments, 832 Ridge Drive, Apt. W-218, was determined to be a hoax by the Kane County Hazardous Device Unit, Geneva, Ill. The DeKalb Fire Department and the Illinois State Police Department also responded to the incident.

The apartment complex is made up of three buildings, each housing more than 200 people.

The device was found in the west building in a two-bedroom apartment that has been vacant for two months. DeKalb Police would not comment on when the device might have been placed in the apartment.

The DeKalb Police had no information on who placed the device in the apartment or for what reason.

DeKalb Police Chief Donald Berke said the hazardous device unit will examine the device, but did not know where it was taken. The DeKalb Police Department is investigating the incident.

College Square resident, NIU junior Paula Knopp, 21, said an apartment maintenance employee, Jay DeBates, helped evacuate the building at about 3:30 p.m.

Knopp said a clock connected to a gray box by wires was found on top of a kitchen cabinet in the apartment. A calculator was attached to the box and tape held the device together, she said.

DeBates could not be reached for comment.

DeKalb Patrolman Donald Gladden said he did not see the device, but was told by other police personnel that the device appeared as Knopp described it.

Knopp said the apartment was shown to three separate prospective renters Wednesday, only hours before DeBates found the device.

Police lines and warning signs were placed near the apartment’s north entrance for crowd control measures, and DeKalb Police and Fire personnel blocked off Ridge Drive from Normal Road to Blackhawk Road.

About 100 on-lookers were at the scene, lifting the spirits of others by making light of the situation and occasionally shouting jeers.

“I hope nothing happens. It is kind of sick, but all you can do is laugh,” Knopp said.

The situation visibly returned to normal when Police allowed residents into their apartments and stereos and laughter could be heard outside the building.