Fiat Lux — 514-510 Cedar Avenue South, Part III

Our English correspondent Seneca III has applied his analytical abilities to photographs of the building at 514 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis, before it exploded, burned, and was demolished.

This is the final part of a four-part series. Part II had to be subdivided into A and B. Previously: Part I, Part IIA, and Part IIB.

III. Summary
by Seneca III


In addition to the commenters directly referred to below I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you GoVers who have contributed to this analysis through your comments, and particularly your links as posted on Parts I, IIA & IIB. ‘Distributed network’, indeed!

Also my thanks to those necessarily nameless old colleagues who in the background have shared with me some of their long-gone experiences and have mercilessly critiqued some of my more outré suggestions. And, finally, also in the background, the Baron for his time spent examining and commenting on some of the photographs I was using and for pointing me in certain directions which, whilst not all were fruitful, were useful in a process of elimination and in opening up other lines of enquiry.


Errata: In Part IIB I suggested that one particular piece of debris originated here…

…where in fact it came from the first window as is illustrated here…

…and here…

… and its origin further reinforces the obvious conclusion that the explosion occurred in the right-hand room of the apartment immediately above the grocery at No. 514…

…whilst the post-explosion position of that piece of debris, deposited across the road way beyond the panel blown from over the entrance to the stairway and thus at a significant angle from a line drawn directly in front its point of origin might further indicate that the epicentre was located either centrally or to the left hand side of the room in focus.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Part III — Summary: Something Fishy This Way Comes

“There are known knowns. These are things that we know.
There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

— Donald Rumsfeld

1. Known knowns

(a)   At 0816hrs on 01/01/14 the explosion/fire was reported by a police officer who was attending the scene for other reasons. (Reasons never fully clarified officially but see 2(d), below.)
(b)   Later that same day Fire Chief John Fruetel and other local emergency service officers and politicos held a (immediate/impromptu?) press conference, where there was no mention of a ‘gas explosion’ and where the Chief professionally answered some the questions with “I do not have that information” and would not permit himself to be drawn into making speculative comments.
(c)   At some later time/date (as reported by KMSP on 01/03/14 and updated on 01/04/14) the following quotations were attributed:

The Minneapolis Fire Department said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, and it could take weeks before an official cause is known. Investigators said natural gas is being considered as a possible cause. “People who had left the building had made an indication that they may have smelled some natural gas,” Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said. But CenterPoint Energy maintains they had no reports of a gas leak in the area. Representatives say there is no evidence of natural gas in the ground and there are no leaks in the lines nearby.

“It is too early to speculate and this incident remains under investigation,” CenterPoint spokeswoman Becca Virden said in a statement. “We are thoroughly cooperating with the fire department’s investigation and working collaboratively to determine what happen.”

Two victims of the explosion spoke to reporters from the HCMC hospital beds on Friday. Abdi Quobey said the explosion took out the entire wall in his apartment. He added there was no smell of natural gas before the blast.

(d)   At a later time/date (that I couldn’t pin down) Chief Fruetel spoke at another, this time formal and possibly scripted, press conference, where he again proposed the gas explosion hypothesis.

[I suspect that the puppeteer on his right (left of photograph) is Abdi Warsame, a (Muslim Somali) Minneapolis Council Member, and the particularly shifty-looking character on his left is Representative Ellison. His (Ellison’s) body language is fascinating, a classic demonstration of how a powerful intimidatory presence can be utilised to ensure a particular script is adhered to although there is no way of knowing if that is the case here (see Unknown unknowns in the Afterword), whilst the demeanour of the Chief is very different from when he was speaking impromptu at the scene, particularly in his use here, but not previously, of hand gestures** to reinforce his point whilst at the same time his facial features are those often associated with a person functioning unwillingly under duress (a.k.a. induction by stress/threat conditioning).

(**An understanding of hand behaviour is crucial to decoding non-verbal behaviours where what the hands do is directed — either consciously or unconsciously — by the brain, which over the course of human evolution has been hard wired to enable us to accurately communicate our emotions, thoughts and sentiments whether in conjunction with spoken language or otherwise.)]

2. Known unknowns

(a)   The actual cause of the explosion.
(b)   Why did the DHS attend what was being presented as a domestic gas explosion, and do so with such alacrity, and did the time of their arrival on the scene precede the growing inclination to attribute the explosion to gas prior to any forensic investigation actually taking place?
(c)   Why was the building so rapidly and so totally demolished in contravention of the clear and detailed procedures laid out in the US Department of Justice publication ‘A Guide for Explosion and Bombing Scene Investigation’** here, published as a result of the (mismanaged?) investigation of the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma, and hence who ordered/suggested/authorised this demolition?

[**“Purpose and Scope.

The principal purpose of this Guide is to provide an investigative outline of the tasks that should be considered at every explosion scene. They will ensure that proper procedures are used to locate, identify, collect and preserve valuable evidence so that it can be examined to produce the most useful and effective information — best practices…Any guide addressing investigative procedures must ensure that that each contributor of evidence to the forensic laboratory is served by the guide and that quality evidence in bombing cases will result in more will result in more successful investigations and prosecutions…”]

(d)   What really was the ‘Electric Shock’?

Ahmed Muse, one of the five owners of the grocery store said he arrived at the store at 8 am. There was what he called “an electrical shock” in the building and police were called. When he went outside to talk to the officers an explosion erupted on the second floor, blowing out the windows and scattering glass on the street below.

(e)   Missing legs?

Anon on January 9, 2014 at 3:29 am said:

None of the existing reports online have mentioned anything further about one victim who fire fighters suggested exited the building without his legs.

“The firemen noted how this explosion/fire was unlike anything they had ever seen, that it included a man who apparently went out the window who had no legs, which if he wasn’t already in that condition, suggests that his legs were blown off.”

[Whilst I cannot find a link to any source mentioning blown-off legs (more on this in the summary) the following interview with the St. Paul Fire Chief is revealing for several reasons.

  • He is also promoting the gas explosion hypothesis but from the perspective of someone who expects that the causes will be properly investigated in due course before a final conclusion is reached and, whilst not directly stated because it is simply not anticipated, it would appear he does not expect the building to be demolished in the manner it was and the vast majority of any forensic clues destroyed before such an investigation takes place.
  • He refers to some demonstrations/experiments organised for “Channel 5” where gas explosions projected window frames several hundred yards but did not mention that in this case just a few pieces of the weaker parts of the window adjacent to the epicentre had barely made it across the road.
  • The anchor did make mention of the fact that firemen had noted “…how this explosion/fire was unlike anything they had ever seen…”
(f)   The significance, if any, of the logo on the door of No. 510 as it was in June 2011. (Part I, and it’s still niggling me.)

3. Unknown unknowns

See Afterword.

4. Conclusions

(a)   There has been a rush to judgement, a judgement that would appear to have been driven by a person or persons unknown for political (or politically correct) reasons rather than pragmatism.

Comment: I leave this open to you, the reader, with your far better knowledge of how things work over there across the pond.

(b)   Much of the “witness-based” evidence as has appeared in the public domain is either inconclusive, incomplete or contradictory. This is not unusual in itself but, in the context of there now being no chance of a thorough, conclusive forensic investigation, it does diminish (if not totally negate) the chances of arriving at the true cause of the explosion and subsequent fire. It thus begs the question “To whose benefit would that sort of indefinite result be?”

Comment: Ditto (a), above.

(c)   All of the indications are that this was not a gas explosion (see Parts I and II), but a relatively small high explosive detonation (missing legs? at table height?), possibly with an even smaller, slightly earlier precursor detonation (electric shock?) that initiated a train of events that led to the explosion/fire some 15 minutes or so later.

Comment: On 01/02/14 I posted as follows…

Seneca III on January 2, 2014 at 5:51 am said:

If anything I am inclined towards the presence of TATP (a.k.a. Mother of Satan), probably in its trimeric form, at least as the initiator. Whilst highly sensitive it is relatively simple to produce using acetone and hydrogen peroxide and during the sublimation stage when it is crystallising it is normal practice to disperse it on a drying medium. Small quantities of less than about 4 grams, if not contained, will burn fiercely but any greater quantities, or if contained in any way, or completely dry will explode at the slightest amount of heat/shock/pressure; obviously in the wrong circumstances (or the right ones, depending upon one’s point of view) both burning and detonation can take place rather rapidly in that order. Furthermore, any hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) present in the vicinity of high temperatures will thereafter give off large volumes of oxygen to feed the subsequent conflagration.

[It was TATP backpack bombs that the enrichers used on the London Underground on 7/7, but it is interesting to note that the second, later attack failed because these retards had tried to stabilise their TATP with chapatti flour and overcooked it, so to speak. Personally I wouldn’t attempt to make this stuff in a properly equipped laboratory never mind in a bathtub in Beeston (Leeds) but there’s no accounting for the Jihadi mind set.]

…and I remain very much of this opinion. Furthermore based upon personal experience and with reference to ‘missing legs’ it should be noted that shaped charges, whether shaped by commission or omission, have a focused blast front the results of which have often been observed in the remains of suicide bombers who had used belt bombs. (See also Appendix A.)

(d)   The fire was extremely fierce and widespread for a domestic fire that had been rapidly responded to.


After several hours of thousands of gallons of water being pumped in, the roof collapsing, and two hours after the original conflagration being visibly extinguished and much of the building turned into a block of ice another fierce fire breaks out in one corner of the domestic top floor giving off dense black smoke.

Petrolman on January 11, 2014 at 4:24 am said:

This was not a natural (LNG/LPG) gas explosion. I believe it was an accidental detonation caused by some idiot terrorist attempting to assemble a detonator for a fuel based bomb of indeterminate size…

…1. The initial explosion was localized and violent enough blow out windows and a large plywood window cover. It was powerful enough to kill or dismember two people.

2. The resulting fire burned hot for hours and was near impossible to quench with water. If you watch the fire chief on scene talk about the fire he states “There were flames shooting 20 feet out of the 2nd and 3rd floor windows.”

When kerosene or diesel fuels are ignition heated to vapor point in a confined space the resulting expansion fire will cause a “blow torch” effect where the fire is able to escape. This is something also seen in paint and other petroleum product factory fires… The color of the flames and the smoke are consistent with a fire fueled by a diesel stage petroleum product like heating fuel kerosene or aviation jet fuel…If they had mounted the detonator into the bomb before it went off the entire building would have been obliterated. I think the press might have had a harder time explaining that away.

This is possible but such bombs are bulky, heavy and difficult to transport in a concealed manner. Materials such as plastics and petroleum products give off black smoke during thermal decomposition; so do many other flammable liquids. Acetone, for one, is highly flammable with a flash point of -20oC and can be chemically extracted in small quantities from such common products as nail polish remover, boot polish, paint thinner etc. etc., and this requires substantial amounts of these commercially available products in order to extract workable quantities of acetone. And likewise with hydrogen peroxide, the second base constituent of DATP/TATP, which is oxygen rich even in its diluted form, is both photo- and heat-reactive and gives off its second oxygen atom very easily indeed. Think of the storage space needed for substantial amounts of these base products, and think also tribalism, tribal obligations and cultural mores.

(e)   The demolition:


Procedures for investigating explosions and bombings are clearly and comprehensively laid out in the document linked to in 2.(c), above. Indeed these procedures share much in common with the procedures laid out in the corresponding British Health & Safety Executive’s Directive ‘Investigating Major Gas Fires and Explosions’, here, specifically:

Shoring or demolition work – evidence could be destroyed by demolition or shoring and there may be no alternative to this. In these circumstances, evidence should be gathered before work commences only if it is possible to do so safely i.e. via video, stills or laser scans taken from a safe distance. HSL have drone- and boom-mounted camera equipment that can be very effective in obtaining footage of areas that are unsafe to enter. [my bold]

And where shoring can be carried out even on burnt out buildings with badly bowed and cracked structural walls…

…it is done — slowly and carefully, but done none the less, one carefully recorded step at time…

…and such a procedure surely should not, in 2014, be beyond the capabilities of a country that 75 five years ago constructed the Empire State Building in only 410 days and then, nearly half a century ago, put men on the Moon — provided there was the will to do so, that is?

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


(a)   ‘Unknown unknowns’ do not exist within some hypothetical parallel universe defined by set of (physical) n-dimensions but in the same universe as us defined only by the one-way flow of time. Time’s inexorable progress has in the past been known to toss up some interesting detritus on the shores of prior obfuscation and politically-motivated dissimulation.

Hence, Seneca III’s Hypothesis: Something will turn up if we wait long enough and enough people (hopefully including some people with substantial political clout) agitate hard enough, and when it does turn up that something will at first move up one level where it may tarry for a while until forced up another level into the full light of day. Bank on it.

(b)   In the comments to Part I on January 5, 2014 at 6:48 pm sgtredbluered said:

It looks like a couple of those fixtures are motion detector activated floodlights. The fixture on the brown brick wall on the second story looks like it could be a light fixture e.g. a small mercury vapor lamp, or a motion detector. The fixture on the post alongside said vapor lamp looks to be a shoebox type light fixture. I don’t see anything I would think is out of the ordinary with these fixtures.

I replied:

Point taken, Sgt, but if you are referring to the high fixture on the light brown wall of the side aspect then it would appear that this particular fixture has a very specific purpose. I will clarify in Part III. Rgds, S III.

Hereunder: First a review of that side of the building showing the position of the wall fitting in relation to the general surrounds and the walkway level light…

…and then we move in on the human activity taking place beneath and (if not obscured by the foliage, which is difficult to determine from the available perspective) directly within the line of sight of the fitting…

…and have a good look at the hand positions of both of them and the body language of the gentleman on the right — specifically the position of his right leg that often illustrates the shifting of body weight and the posture-easing of someone who has been static in one location for some time — and also what is presumed to be a cell phone at his left ear. My bet is that the apparent static location of the man on the right, the cell phone and the wall mounted camera(?) are all interlinked for a collective purpose, whatever said purpose could be and which I leave open for speculation by others in the context of local knowledge and later events. Good luck!

— Seneca III, Middle England, 19th January 2014 — 18 Raby’ al-awal 1435 Al Hijri

Appendix A: Explosives.

In conventional high explosives such as TNT, each molecule contains both a fuel component and an oxidising component. When the explosive detonates, the fuel part is oxidised and as this combustion reaction spreads it releases large amounts of heat. The explosion of TATP (detonation velocity 5200 m/s) involves entropy burst, which is the result of formation of one ozone and three acetone molecules from every molecule of TATP in the solid state. Just a few grams of the material produce tens of litres of gas in a fraction of a second:

  • Acetone peroxide — otherwise known as triacetone triperoxide or peroxyacetone — is an organic peroxide, and can be used as a primary high explosive.
  • It commonly appears as a white crystalline powder and has a distinct smell of bleach.
  • It is highly volatile, and particularly susceptible to heat, friction and shock.
  • It is created through the chemical reaction between hydrogen peroxide and acetone in the presence of other reactants.
  • It is chemically notable as one of the few high explosives not containing nitrogen – making it popular with terrorists as it can pass through scanners designed to detect nitrogenous explosives. (HMTD, hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, another popular jihadi DIY product, does however contain nitrogen.)
  • As little as four grams can cause a detonation when ignited.
  • Trace analysis can be carried out by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and high performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry — when, that is, there are any traces left to analyse!

Some of its [TATP] blast effects can be seen below:

Previous posts about the explosion and fire in Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis, on New Year’s Day 2014:

2014   Jan   1   A Fiery Dawn in Minneapolis
        2   Enter DHS — It Was a Gas Leak
        2   The Gas Company Says: “No Way!”
        3   Body #2 Found at Cedar Avenue
        3   A Funny Smell in Minneapolis
        4   Applying Occam’s Razor
        5   What the Police and the Gas Company Really Said
        5   Fiat Lux — 514-510 Cedar Avenue South, Part I
        7   Welcome to Minnedishu!
        7   Fiat Lux — 514-510 Cedar Avenue South, Part IIA
        8   Fiat Lux — 514-510 Cedar Avenue South, Part IIB

For links to previous essays by Seneca III, see the Seneca III Archives.

9 thoughts on “Fiat Lux — 514-510 Cedar Avenue South, Part III

  1. With the New Year’s Day fire/explosion on the West Bank in Minneapolis happening right outside their door steps, KFAI Radio, Augsburg College and the Cedar Cultural Center quickly went into action to organize a benefit concert for victims and families. The event is scheduled Friday, Jan. 24, at the Cedar and will featur, Spider John Koerner, one of the local music legends who helped make the West Bank a live music haven.

    [strib link

    Perhaps some further details about survivors conditions or circumstances during the explosion will surface at this event.

  2. Clarence Reed from Facebook Jan 2, 2014 posted this comment @ blog @ city pages:

    ” I was walking over to The Nicollet cafe & saw the smoke rising down Franklin avenue & hopped on the #2 bus to investigate, sadly I didnt have the best lens for this on my camera. ..but.

    See additional photo album of Cedar Riverside explosion/fire here
    The comment includes this ego located image of the site which reveals it’s location is hardly as dense as the close up photos, video suggested…link

  3. I can get a gallon of acetone at Lowes or Home Depot. Don’t have to squeeze nail polish remover for it.

  4. FWIW Re: 2d report of electrical shock preceding explosion…

    wiki “arc flash”
    Electric shock (section Arc-flash hazards)
    The arc blast produced by vaporizing metallic components can break bones and damage internal organs.
    An arc flash is the light and heat produced from an electric arc supplied with sufficient electrical energy to cause substantial damage, harm, fire, or injury.

  5. Seneca, when the Jihadies set their bombs off prematurely without killing or maiming those they have targeted, it gives me great satisfaction.

    A big well done to you and what you have uncovered through your perseverance, experience and analytical skill.

    I raise a pint in saluting your efforts.

    • At this point there’s no way we’ll ever know.

      Possibilities include schools, churches, Shia establishments (assuming there are any Shia in Minnesota), military bases or offices, public transportation, shopping malls, sports events, and all the other targets recommended in the Al Qaeda manuals.

  6. This worries me for one reason. There are ALOT of African owned nail bars where I live. Comforting thought eh?

Comments are closed.