OAKLAND – State police used a remote-controlled robot Wednesday to blast open what appeared to be a pipe bomb on the steps of St. Theresa’s Church.

The device turned out not to be a pipe bomb, but police and the state Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating why it was left on the steps of the church and what it contained.

“It does not appear to be illegal,” said Sgt. Ken Grimes of the Fire Marshal’s Office.

A passer-by on Church Street noticed the device on the church steps around 9 a.m. and flagged down a police officer, said police Capt. Rick Stubbert.

Stubbert arrived to inspect the pipe, which was capped on both ends and painted gray, the color of the steps, he said.

Police called the Fire Marshal’s Office, which contacted the state police Special Services Bomb Team.

Police closed Church Street to traffic on either side of the Roman Catholic church just before 10:30 a.m. and evacuated homes within view of the church. State police took the robot out of the bomb team van at 11 a.m.

The robot went down Church Street, turned toward St. Theresa’s and traveled the sidewalk to the church steps. The robot fired a bullet-type charge to open the device, creating a blast.

Grimes said just before noon that the pipe did not contain any explosive material. He would not say what the material was.

Sue Bernard, communications director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, issued a statement Wednesday saying the church is troubled about the “alarming and disturbing incident” at the church.

“While we are grateful no one was injured and no damage occurred, we are anxious to find out the results of the police investigation and hopeful that this was not intentionally threatening,” she said.

Bernard said the church was closed for the winter, but will open soon.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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