Felony charges for explosives owner

Published 10:02 am Friday, June 21, 2013

An Albert Lea man injured in an explosion last October in a bunker under his driveway is facing two felony charges tied to the incident.

Ronald Irvin Rofshus, 48, appeared in Freeborn County District Court Thursday on one count of unlawful possession of an explosive or incendiary device and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm silencer.

According to court documents, he was making a rimfire explosive in the underground bunker on Oct. 21, 2012, at 18115 Pelican Road when the blast occurred.

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The explosion was investigated by the Freeborn County Attorney’s Office, the Bloomington Bomb Squad, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Freeborn County Sheriff Bob Kindler said Rofshus is not facing any federal charges.

Rofshus, who has a prosthetic left arm in place of an arm that was amputated in the blast, also suffered an injured left ear, injured left eye and chemical and heat burns.

Assistant Freeborn County Attorney David Walker said state statute requires anyone owning or possessing an explosive device to file a report with the Department of Public Safety, giving information such as the person’s name and address, employment, how the explosive will be used, a federal license or registration number and other information as required.

Walker alleged Rofshus did not comply with this part of the law.

Walker said although the charges are serious, he does not think Rofshus is a threat to society. Rofshus enjoyed working on targets as a hobby that would explode when fired upon. Court documents stated he enjoyed an adrenaline rush that accompanied the work.

Authorities were alerted to the explosion at 12:13 a.m. Oct. 21, 2012. When officers arrived, they found Rofshus with his left arm wrapped in a towel and with burns and blood on his face and both arms.

Rofshus reportedly told Albert Lea police officer Tim Harves, “I was using explosives. I was doing something not good.”

His 10- and 12-year-old children, who were also home at the time, likely saved his life by calling 911 and applying first aid to their father’s wounds, according to a previous interview.

His hand and part of his wrist were blown off during the explosion.

Rofshus later allegedly told Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jeremy Henke he had been mixing chemicals, including ammonium nitrate in a plastic bowl to make an exploding target used in sports shooting activities.

He was at a work bench in the underground bunker at the time of the explosion.

After looking at the bunker, a Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office detective called the Bloomington Bomb Squad and federal agencies to assist in the investigation.

Tannerite and pyrodex were also found in the room, along with what also appeared to be several other projects in progress and multiple PVC tube, plugs, caps, fuses and other items.

Authorities took three guns with silencers from the house, which were tested at the firearms technology branch of the ATF in West Virginia. The silencers reduced the level of the guns they were on by between just under 20 decibels and 28 decibels.

Rofshus’s lawyer, Peggy Rockow, entered a provisional not guilty plea in court Thursday to the charges and requested 30 days to review evidence before deciding whether any of that evidence should be challenged.

Freeborn County District Court Judge Steve Schwab ordered that Rofshus be released on unconditional bail of $10,000 or on his promise to reappear if he agreed to a series of conditions. Conditions included signing a waiver of extradition, obeying the law, not leaving the state without prior court permission and getting booked into the jail.

Unlawful possession of an explosive or incendiary device carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Unlawful possession of a firearm silencer carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.