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BEYOND LOCAL: Suspect in 2023 Barrie bombing arrested in Ajax

'The arrest being made should put some ease into our community knowing that we accomplished what we said we were going to do,' says Barrie police official

Yesterday, exactly eight months to the day after the September 2023 bombing near the Anne Street bridge over Highway 400, Barrie police say they have arrested their suspect.

According to a news release issued this morning (May 28), detectives from the Barrie police street crime unit arrested 36-year-old William Ivan Downey, of North York, on Monday.

City police say he was located in Ajax and taken into custody without incident.

On April 29, police identified their suspect publicly as Downey. He was wanted for his alleged involvement in the early morning explosion that took place Sept. 27, 2023 in a parking lot at 108A Anne St. N., near the bridge over Highway 400. The explosion was reported shortly before 3 a.m.

According to police, after being named as a suspect, Downey was believed to be somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, with a "strong belief" that he could have been somewhere in Toronto, York Region or Durham Region.

An improvised explosive device (IED) had been placed around the gas-cap area of a white SUV in the lot. The device had exploded, damaging surrounding vehicles, prior to emergency crews arriving.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, Downey has been charged with causing an explosion, intent to destroy, two counts of arson with damage to property, possessing explosives, making or possessing explosives, two counts of breaching a prohibition order, and failure to comply with release order.

He was held in custody and remanded to appear by video, with the Ontario Court of Justice located in Barrie, on June 4.

When asked by BarrieToday if there are any other suspects being sought, Barrie police communications co-ordinator Peter Leon would only say the investigation is still ongoing and he couldn't comment any further other than the arrest. 

"The arrest being made should put some ease into our community knowing that we accomplished what we said we were going to do — identify those that are responsible," Leon said on Tuesday.

"We are hopeful that those who shared information, and were most impacted by it, will feel a sense of relief knowing that an arrest has been made," he added. 

When asked last month about a possible motive, police said they could not comment because it formed part of the investigation.

The bombing resulted in several road closures in the area of Anne Street and Edgehill Drive for more than 16 hours, as well as the Anne Street bridge over Highway 400 for part of the morning that September day.

About 20 people living in two nearby apartment buildings also had to be evacuated from their homes that morning.

At the time of the blast, Ontario Provincial Police's urban search and rescue (USAR) unit, as well as the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRNE) response team, were on scene assisting with the investigation.

No serious injuries were reported.

Barrie police said members of the major crime unit, which co-ordinated and led the investigation, wanted to "thank the community for their input, support and understanding over the past eight months while this investigation was carried out, and culminated in yesterday’s arrest."