Authorities have “promising leads” but still no suspects as they continue investigating a pipe bomb that exploded in a Jersey Shore garbage can Saturday morning, shortly before hundreds of people were expected to run through the area in a charity race benefiting Marines and Navy sailors.
Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said there were no known links so far between the New Jersey pipe bomb and two other incidents — an explosion in New York and a stabbing rampage in a Minnesota mall — that took place later Saturday.
The blast in New Jersey occurred about 9:35 a.m. near the boardwalk in Seaside Park, along the route of the Seaside Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5K, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
There were no reported injuries or damage to surrounding buildings, and the area was immediately placed on a lockdown while bomb-sniffing dogs searched for other explosive devices, the prosecutor’s office said.
Officials added that there was at least one other device reported that the New Jersey State Police would “make safe” but did not give further details.
The race had been delayed, so there were no crowds in the area at the time, according to authorities. A 1-mile Semper Five “fun run” had been scheduled to start at 9 a.m., and the 5K race had been scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.
As late as 7 a.m., organizers were posting updates about the race on social media. It would have been the third annual running of the five-kilometer out-and-back along the Jersey Shore.
“OOHRAH!” read the caption underneath a video of an American flag waving near the would-be finish line. “PERFECT CONDITIONS FOR THE #SEASIDESEMPERFIVE”
However, less than an hour later, runners were being told there would be no race.
“#SeasideSemperFive just shut down bc of suspicious bag,” tweeted one participant, Felecia Wellington. “Not sure what is going on. We are being told to go home.”
Wellington, who declined to be interviewed but verified her social media posts, said on Twitter that she had not heard an explosion and that runners were evacuated before the area was shut down.
“Emergency services responded very quickly to the explosion & suspicious bag situation in Seaside,” Wellington tweeted again later. “Happy we are safe.”
Race organizers canceled the race at the last minute Saturday morning.
“Out of extreme precaution, this year’s Seaside Semper Five has been canceled due to an unidentified suspicious backpack found at the race site,” read a statement on the race website. “The safety and security of our participants, spectators, staff and volunteers is of utmost importance.”
The event was put on by the MARSOC Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports active-duty and retired members of the Marine Corps, Navy and their families.
It is unclear how many runners had signed up to participate in the Semper Five race. Results from past years’ races listed more than 700 finishers. Organizers did not immediately respond to an email inquiry Saturday.
Several local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies are investigating the pipe bomb. As of Saturday afternoon, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department was advising people to avoid the area.
About 11 hours later, around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, an explosion shook the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, injuring at least 29 people in what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called “an intentional act.”
Also around 8 p.m. Saturday, a man armed with a knife reportedly stabbed eight people inside a Minnesota mall before he was killed by an off-duty police officer.
“We don’t believe at this time that there’s any evidence connecting [the New Jersey pipe bomb] to the attacks in New York or Minnesota,” Christie said on CNN.
He added that the FBI is leading the investigation in Seaside Park, along with the New Jersey State Police and the Office of Homeland Security.
“We’re continuing to work with the authorities to make sure that we bring whoever is responsible for this to justice as quickly as possible,” Christie said.
As in New York, New Jersey investigators still have made no determination as to a motive behind the pipe bomb explosion.
“We’re out there. We’re working hard,” said special agent Michael Whitaker, a spokesman for the FBI office in Newark. “We’re going to make sure we find out who’s responsible.”
Law enforcement officials said they will examine the detonated explosive material, video surveillance tapes and social media.
As of Sunday, the beach in Seaside Park was open and there were no travel restrictions in the area, Whitaker said.
Those who may have credible information about the New Jersey bomb are asked to call 1-800-CALL-FBI, and select option 1.
In 2013, two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 264. Since then, security at that race — as well as at other major marathons and large-scale running events — has tightened.
This post has been updated. Ellen Nakashima in Washington contributed to this report.