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Brian Campbell court Wednesday

Brian Campbell, left, appears in court Wednesday with his lawyer, Sarah Schmeiser. 

A man whose collection of chemicals caused the evacuation of a Far West Side apartment building last week was nearly evicted from the building last year and had threatened apartment building staff members to keep them out of his apartment, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.

Brian N. Campbell, 30, who was arrested last week after police and fire officials were called to his apartment at 7410 Timber Lake Trail, was charged in the complaint with second-degree reckless endangerment, possession of improvised explosives and misdemeanor bail jumping.

Campbell was jailed on $100,000 bail after a court appearance on Monday, and bail was kept in that amount after he returned to court on Wednesday. He will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on March 6.

“It’s extremely serious and concerning behavior,” Court Commissioner Brian Asmus said. “What is alleged here is he has all the accouterments to put together a fully functioning pipe bomb or explosive with fuses and timers and pipes and all the chemicals necessary to do that. That’s pretty frightening.”

According to the complaint, a manager at Timberlake Village Apartments entered Campbell’s apartment on Feb. 20 after receiving complaints from residents about chemical odors in the building. The manager told police that apartment building staff members had talked to Campbell in the past about chemicals and chemical smells from his apartment, the complaint states, and said that Campbell had threatened to harm staff members if they entered his apartment without his consent.

The manager said that in April, the apartment complex had given Campbell a five-day eviction notice, but Campbell was able to clean things up. He told police that Campbell had been cited by city inspectors in April.

That was not the case, according to city building inspection records. Inspection records show that Campbell instead was ordered in April to correct blockage to a patio door and to rearrange extension cords in the apartment and garage so that they did not pose a hazard. There were chemicals present in the apartment, housing inspection supervisor Kyle Bunnow said, but any enforcement action related to those would be taken by the fire department or health department.

Madison Fire Department spokeswoman Jen Blair would not comment on whether the department was aware of the April inspection findings.

Inspectors were back at Campbell’s apartment in January, however, the records state, checking on management concerns about cleanliness and possible hazardous chemicals in the apartment. That matter was to be reviewed by city inspectors on March 5, records indicate, but last week’s hazardous chemical incident occurred.

According to the complaint:

In the apartment last week, investigators found chemicals being heated, and a monitoring device used by investigators detected the increasing presence of volatile organic compounds in the apartment. That led to the evacuation of the entire apartment building. Residents were allowed back last weekend.

An agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reviewed the scene and interviewed Campbell and said that she saw items that were consistent with the intent to make homemade explosive devices, including a number of chemical liquids and powders, along with short sections of steel pipe with threaded end caps, and an explosive called urea nitrate.

In Campbell’s garage, ATF Agent Jody Keeku also found items that included homemade time-delay fuses created from Christmas tree lights and wiring, along with cardboard tubes filled with a suspected explosive substance and commercial fireworks. Other items in the garage included black powder and potassium nitrate.

Police also saw that several countertops in the apartment were scarred by acid and it appeared that Campbell had conducted experiments in his stove and fireplace.

In an interview with police, Campbell denied that he was making or modifying fireworks. He admitted that he visited chemistry-related websites and accessed journals about energetic compounds and explosives.

Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.