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IED believed to be on vehicle in Barrie, Ont. parking lot explodes, sparking evacuations and road closures

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Police locked down and evacuated a section of Barrie, Ont., Wednesday in the city's west end after an explosion in a parking lot.

Barrie Police Services Corporate Communications Coordinator Peter Leon said the improvised explosive device (IED) is believed to have been placed on a vehicle in an Anne Street North parking lot and was detonated around 3 a.m.

Residents called 911 to report hearing a loud bang.

Police are investigating an early-morning incident on Anne Street North in Barrie. Wed. Sept. 27, 2023 (Courtesy of Michael Chorney/At the Scene Photography).

Leon said officers arrived to find two vehicles with damages.

Residents in the adjacent apartment building and anyone in nearby buildings were immediately evacuated.

Police urged residents in the area to shelter in place and remain indoors until further notice.

Several roads in the area were closed, including Anne and Wellington Streets, Anne Street and Gibbon Drive, and Leacock Drive and Edgehill Drive.

Aerial images of an Anne Street North parking lot in Barrie, Ont., on Wed., Sept. 27, 2023, show a police investigation underway. (CTV CHOPPER)

Leon said the service's Explosive Disposal Unit attended the scene and performed a 'controlled detonation' on a device found 10 to 12 feet away from the initial explosion around 8:30 a.m.

"We believe at this point there was an explosive device placed upon the motor vehicle parked in the parking lot and that a portion of that device did not explode at the time, became dislodged, and that was the device that was remotely imploded by our explosive unit," Leon said.

"It was in an adjacent garden, close by. It would appear as if the device that exploded on the vehicle, it's a possibility it would have been there beside that vehicle or part of that device that exploded, and it just did not detonate at the time of the explosion," he added.

No injuries were reported to residents or emergency personnel.

"We could have had significant damage," Leon said. "We have no less than five high-rise apartment buildings, a retirement home and a neighbourhood community in close proximity - certainly, this could have been a disastrous outcome."

Police confirmed the K9 unit searched the area and ensured no other explosives were found.

"Undoubtedly, the person that owned that vehicle or used it at the very least was the target," said CTV Public Safety Analyst Chris Lewis.

Lewis, a former OPP commissioner, said if the person who owns or drives the vehicle involved in the explosion cooperates with police, a suspect list should come together fairly quickly.

"The average businessman that's in a quarrel with a partner or the average person who has got a wife or a husband that's unhappy with them generally doesn't go to the trouble of planting bombs. So that's organized crime, it's gangs, it's bikers, it's something to that effect," Lewis added.

Residents were kept from going in or out of the area for much of the day.

"These precautions are in the interest of public safety. We are asking that the public please be patient," Leon said. "We are doing what we're doing for your well-being but also for the safety and the well-being of our officers and also the emergency services personnel on scene."

Police reopened Anne Street around 7: 30 p.m.

While no arrests have been made, police say the investigation is ongoing as detectives work to identify the person(s) responsible for "this senseless act of criminal behaviour."

Police ask anyone with information or dash cam footage from the Anne Street and Edgehill Drive area around the time of the incident to contact the authorities or Crime Stoppers to remain anonymous.

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