CHICAGO (CBS) — An apartment building in the Homan Square neighborhood was evacuated early Thursday, after an Airbnb host found suspicious items in the room he rents out.
Mike Duckworth called police around 1:15 a.m. after finding what appeared to be a pipe bomb in an apartment in the 3500 block of West Flournoy Street.
Duckworth took pictures of what he found: old wires, soldering equipment, and a cardboard tube on a bed in the apartment. He said the tenant, who’s name is reportedly Michael Debrown, also set up a camera in the bedroom.
“Right when I opened the door, there was a fully functional camera; one of those USB – maybe it links to a cell phone, or something – pointed right at the door, and just everything on the bed was just laid out. Copper wire, soldering gun, kind of a heat lamp, and what looked like a fully made pipe bomb,” he said.
Duckworth said the items were suspicious enough to question his safety and the well-being of his other tenants in the building.
“First of all, let’s get everyone out of here. So I kind of evacuated the place, made sure all the guests got out, called the police,” he said.
The Police Bomb and Arson Unit took precautionary steps to clear out the building, searched the room, and confiscated the items. Detectives determined there was no threat, no bomb, and no danger to the area.
“One officer was in this district for 10 years. He’s like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before,’” Duckworth said.
Everyone was allowed back inside after staying warm on a CTA bus.
Duckworth, who has several properties he rents out through Airbnb, said he still has concerns about the guest from Hanover Park who rented the room, and brought some interesting souvenirs.
“This individual checked in tonight, and just his behavior upon checking was kind of strange. He was kind of really asking a lot of questions about the locks; asking about the security, the privacy,” he said.
Duckworth said Debrown was arrested on an outstanding warrant from a separate bomb-making case when he returned much later Thursday morning. Police said the Bomb and Arson Unit found the items suspicious enough to conduct an investigation.
Airbnb said it provides limited background checks; they do monitor certain databases for criminal records if they’re provided with accurate names and birthdates. However, the service provides a disclaimer that no background check should ever be considered the sole indication of a potential guest’s suitability or a guarantee for safety.