SKOWHEGAN — Police said a hand grenade found wedged against an oil tank at the Towne Motel on Tuesday turned out to be a toy.

Part of the motel was evacuated about 11 a.m. while a member of the Maine State Police bomb squad researched photos of the device and determined it was a toy grenade, Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais said.

“I’ve seen a few real grenades before — World War II grenades — and it was about 5 inches long, total, and had that pineappley look and shape,” Blais said. “You could tell it was not made of steel, but where the top fit into the main body of the thing, there were a couple of wires right there, so that was pretty sketchy to see those wires.

“It was a kid’s toy. Anybody could have put it there, but the way it was sitting against the oil pipe and the building — it was wedged in there — it was sketchy.”

Deborah Poulin, who owns the motel with her husband, Roger, said a maintenance man found the object during his usual routine, and they alerted authorities.

“It was wedged between the building and the oil fill tank at the far end of the building,” Deborah Poulin said from the motel parking lot, which was lined with police cars, an ambulance and a firetruck. “It was black and silver. It looked like a hand grenade. It sort of looked like a pear with a lever on top.”

A two-story, 24-unit section of the motel on Madison Avenue was cordoned off with yellow police tape, but shortly after noon, a resident of one of the basement rooms tried to get past the tape. Robert G. Schanil, 73, untied the tape and tried to get to the basement. When told to stop, Schanil continued at a quicker pace and refused to cooperate with police officers, who tackled and handcuffed him.

Schanil was arrested and taken to the county jail, where he was booked on a charge of criminal trespass.

Blais said police took pictures of the device with their cellphones, then compared them to photos of real and toy grenades found on the Internet. The fact that the pin of the toy grenade appeared to have been pulled, allowing the trigger to release if it was moved, was unsettling, he said.

Blais said once Trooper Benjamin Sweeney, of the state police bomb squad from Troop D in Augusta, was confident that the grenade was a toy, the trooper picked it up and placed it in evidence.

By Tuesday afternoon there were no suspects. Police said the perpetrator could be charged with creating a false public alarm, a misdemeanor.

“Maybe they thought it would be a joke to stick it in there like that,” Blais said. “We didn’t want anybody to get hurt, so we called the bomb squad.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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