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Police: Wis. man dies after setting off explosion in apartment building

RICE LAKE, Wis. -- A Rice Lake, Wis., man died after apparently following through on his threat to set off an explosion in his apartment late Sunday, authorities said.

About 14 other residents of the apartment complex were evacuated by police before the explosion. The building was a complete loss after the explosion and fire, the Rice Lake Police Department reported.

Rice Lake police identified the man who died as Joseph Zunker, 44. A police officer sustained minor injuries from flying debris, and a resident received minor injuries during the evacuation.

Authorities said officers were called to the complex on South Main Street in the Northwestern Wisconsin community just after 11 p.m. on "a 911 call from an upset male subject who stated he had a bomb.”

"Upon arrival, officers approached the caller’s residence and heard a male yelling inside the apartment. Officers attempted to make contact with the subject ... who threatened to blow everyone up," Rice Lake police reported in a news release. "Officers began evacuating approximately 14 residents from the apartment complex. ... A short time later, officers observed Zunker igniting a fire and an explosion occurred."

Heather Wilkins, a neighbor who had to evacuate her home, told WQOW-TV that “it sounded like a gunshot type of boom, like a bang.”

Fire crews battled the blaze in the single-story building for hours. Zunker was later located dead inside his apartment.

Authorities did not immediately release information on what was used to cause the explosion. Rice Lake police Capt. Tracy Hom told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram that Zunker had a history of contacts with police, "but nothing like this."

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