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Charges: Man left bag of gasoline-soaked towels, smoke flares in U of M building

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A Minneapolis man has been charged by police after a bag containing gasoline-soaked towels and smoke flares was discovered inside a building at the University of Minnesota Sunday, a criminal complaint says.

Jason Robert Johnson, 35, of Minneapolis, was charged Wednesday with having an explosive or incendiary device with the intent to damage property or injure and terroristic threats/reckless disregard risk – both felonies.

He is accused of leaving the potentially explosive bag inside the Coffman Memorial Union, which was closed for a "security threat" on Monday.

According to the criminal complaint:

Officers responded to the Coffman Memorial Union around 11:17 p.m. Sunday after getting a report of a suspicious bag that smelled like gasoline that was sitting near a fireplace.

The bomb squad analyzed the bag and found it contained "bundled smoke flares, towels soaked in gasoline, gloves and a lighter."

Officials, including police from the U of M, the airport, Minneapolis, Metro Transit and St. Paul, as well as the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, the state patrol and the Minneapolis Fire Department, assisted in a "thorough search of the building."

After reviewing surveillance video, investigators discovered the bag was left near the fireplace shortly before noon Sunday. A police officer who viewed still images taken from the video identified the suspect as Johnson. The officer had had prior contact with the suspect.

When police made phone contact with Johnson, he made suicidal comments. He was then located and safely taken into custody.

During a post-Miranda interview, Johnson admitted to leaving the bag inside the building.

Johnson, who has numerous convictions that include felony damage to property, felony burglary, aggravated robbery and felony receiving stolen property, remains jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail.

He's expected to appear in court Thursday, the Star Tribune says.

If convicted, Johnson could face up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for the explosive device charge, and five years and up to a $10,000 fine for the terrorist threat charge.

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