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Scene of Bronson hazmat emergency secured; cops say arrest pending

Updated 3:35 pm, Thursday, October 3, 2013

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  • Bronson Road in Fairfield is reopening on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, a day after police discovered a stash of firearms, explosives, ammunition and potentially dangerous chemicals inside of 1625 Bronson Road.  Photo: Cathy Zuraw

    Bronson Road in Fairfield is reopening on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, a day after police discovered a stash of firearms, explosives, ammunition and potentially dangerous chemicals inside of 1625 Bronson Road. 

    Photo: Cathy Zuraw

 

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A day after discovery of a large stash of firearms, ammunition, explosives and potentially dangerous chemicals at a Bronson Road home sent shock waves through lower Greenfield Hill, police Thursday morning said the property has been secured although investigators remained on the scene.

The owner of the property at 1625 Bronson Road -- 69-year-old Joseph C. Callahan, a chemist and businessman -- had not been charged with any crimes as of Thursday afternoon. However, police sources indicated a warrant for his arrest on a charge of illegally manufacturing explosives has been prepared. It is expected to be executed when Callahan is released from a hospital where he was taken after showing signs of being disoriented.

More than 250 firearms found on the property -- most of them rifles -- have been secured as a safety precaution, Police Chief Gary MacNamara said Thursday. All of the weapons apparently were owned legally by Callahan.

"We're seizing and securing the weapons that were there to make the scene safe because of the large number of chemicals there," MacNamara said. "There were no illegal weapons, no sense of any extremism."

"This house is now safe," the chief added.

Police said they also found thousands of rounds of ammunition on the property, as well as explosive devices that were removed and detonated by the State Police bomb squad at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport. The explosives, according to the chief, ranged from quarter-sticks of dynamite to materials that Callahan apparently concocted himself.

MacNamara said, however, that investigators now have no evidence that Callahan had intentions to harm anyone else.

Bronson Road was reopened to traffic in both directions about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. The street had been closed in both directions from Tuesday night through most of Wednesday while police, firefighters, the Fairfield County HazMat team, State Police bomb squad, state environmental crews and agents from the FBI and ATF investigated the scene.

An officer was posted Thursday in front of 1625 Bronson Road, while Fire Marshal investigators and crews from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection focused on the cache of chemicals remaining on the site.

It remained unclear as of Thursday afternoon when all the chemicals would be removed from the property.

"At the request of the town, we removed the most hazardous substance in the house -- flammable liquid -- but other hazardous materials remain," said Dwayne Gardner, a spokesman for DEEP's Office of the Chief of Staff.

"It is now up to the town, through their Fire Marshal,to decide the next course of action and they haven't done that yet," Gardner added.

The bizarre chain of events began unfolding Tuesday morning when MacNamara said police were contacted by an out-of-state caller, asking that officers do a welfare check at the home. He said police spoke with Callahan at the time, and everything seemed fine. Callahan called later that day about a possible burglary at his home, but MacNamara said officers found no signs that anyone had broken into the house.

When police responded to that call, however, they said Callahan appeared disoriented.

He was hospitalized and remained there Thursday. Officials said there is no indication that Callahan had been sickened by the chemicals in the home.

Callahan has a background in chemistry and may have worked at the former Remington Arms plant in Bridgeport. His profile on the Internet site, LinkedIn, shows Callahan had a long history of jobs at Remington, which apparently began as a research chemist for its parent company, DuPont, in the 1960s.

He currently is the president of Remair Company, Inc., a firm described as "consulting chemists" on its website, according to a Lexis search of his background. The company has a post office box in Southport, but no one answered calls to the phone number listed on the website Wednesday.

Callahan's LinkedIn profile described Remair as a privately held company that specializes in nitration reactions also oxidation/reduction reactions and "any specialized lab work."

MacNamara said investigators have yet to determine why the explosive devices were made, but said, "Anybody who makes bombs has some sort of nefarious reason."

On Thursday, he said that local officials were told by bomb squad personnel that the explosives found on the property were "not hobby-type activity."

Police said they have had no previous contact with Callahan prior to Tuesday, and that he has no criminal record.

"As you can imagine, this is a volatile situation," MacNamara said Wednesday as the investigation was ongoing. He said once it was determined by the haz-mat team that the team could enter the house, explosives also were discovered. "We believe this individual had been manufacturing the explosives," the police chief said. "We don't know why."

MacNamara said investigators are talking to neighbors "trying to get a sense" of the situation, asking, "Did you see anything suspicious, and we're getting some indication of that."

"He did have some hobbies," MacNamara said, such as model rocketry, "but when he crossed the line, or why, into manufacturing explosive devices, we don't know."

The property -- appraised at $1.3 million, according to the Assessor's online data records -- is owned by Joseph and Mary Callahan.

Immediate neighbors of the property were initially advised to leave their homes while officials tried to identify the suspect chemicals and gauge the potential danger. They were allowed to return home late Tuesday.