The man responsible for the March 5, 2018, explosion at 109 Knaup Drive in Beaver Dam spoke with co-workers about the Parkland, Florida school shooting shortly after it happened, saying a similar shooting could happen at Richelieu Foods, where he worked.
“Don’t worry, you will be the first to get out of here,” Benjamin Morrow told a co-worker during the conversation that occurred less than five weeks before he died in an explosion in his apartment at 109 Knaup Drive, newly released documents show.
Morrow had a small lab with chemicals that he used to create TATP, a highly-explosive chemical, in his apartment. Beaver Dam received national media attention while local, state and federal officials struggled with how to safely destroy the chemicals left in Morrow’s apartment after the explosion and fire.
Beaver Dam Police released investigative reports Wednesday in response to an open records request from the Daily Citizen. The information includes videos, photos and reports issued after the explosion and subsequent intentional burn of the entire apartment building to destroy any traces of the explosive compound.
Morrow’s motives may never be fully known, but the investigation documents provide a clearer picture of the 28-year-old man.
A supervisor at Richelieu Foods told police a day after the explosion that Morrow was not close to any co-workers and conversations with him were awkward. He described Morrow as “overtly shy, very guarded and not forthcoming.” He said Morrow also always avoided eye contact and appeared uncomfortable and nervous.
Morrow, who worked with five others in a small lab at Richelieu Foods, was qualified to be a pharmacist and his supervisor questioned why he came to work at the frozen pizza plant.
“Ben was essentially making pennies compared to what he would be making as a pharmacist,” Morrow’s supervisor said, according to the Beaver Dam Police Department incident report.
“I never understood why Ben wanted to work at Richelieu when he had such an impressive resume,” he told police.
Morrow’s supervisor told police he believed it was odd that Morrow left a decent paying job at PPD, a company that conducts medical testing, to make less money at Richelieu Foods. Morrow had worked on the afternoon shift at Richelieu since the summer of 2017.
Morrow’s supervisor said he hired Morrow because Morrow had a chemistry degree, although that was not required for the job.
Morrow’s supervisor said he was a good employee and always was on time. He also could be friendly and dressed well, but could be a bit sloppy with the details of his work.
“Ben would constantly forget to date and time-stamp documents he was required to fill out for purposes of effectively performing his job duties as a quality control employee,” the supervisor said.
The supervisor also said Morrow would come to work smelling of moth balls which he said contain naphthalene, which is an explosive.
He said, “Employees have confronted Ben about why he smells like moth balls and Ben smiled back at them in response to their questioning, and never provided a verbal response.”
Other employees said Morrow was a quiet person who enjoyed nature walks.
“Ben had memorized the periodic table and he was very smart with chemistry-related topics,” a co-worker said about Morrow. “Ben was always talking about different types of chemicals because he had previously worked as a chemist, however he was fired from that position prior to obtaining employment with Richelieu Foods.”
The co-worker told police that Morrow used a computer in the back of the room to look up guns and ammunition as well as play shooting games.
Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation agent Kevin Heimerl reported finding 13 medium-sized jars of potentially “finished TATP explosive material” in the refrigerator of Morrow’s apartment. Experts say TATP often is used in homemade explosives. Heimerl said containers labeled TATP were found in Morrow’s apartment garage.
TATP can be manufactured on a stove top by anyone with a bit of chemistry knowledge and the correct formula, Heimerl said in warrant documents filed in the case.
Both the Beaver Dam Police Department and FBI investigations into the incident are closed.
Leonard Peace, public affairs specialist for the FBI office in Milwaukee, said the Beaver Dam Police investigation contains all the information available in the case.
“There wouldn’t be a separate investigation done by us,” Peace said. “We worked jointly on the case.”