Windsor man charged in explosion at Chrysler minivan plant

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

A 33-year-old man from Windsor, Ontario, was charged on Wednesday in relation to an explosion earlier this month at the Chrysler minivan plant there.

James Harris was arrested Wednesday morning in East Windsor without incident. He has been charged with explosion/disregard for human life, intention to cause explosion likely to cause serious bodily harm or death and intention to cause explosion likely to cause serious damage to property, according to a news release from the Windsor Police Service.

Windsor Assembly Plant produces the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager minivans.

Investigators received a search warrant for a home in the mostly residential 1700 block of Drouillard Road. Members of the Emergency Services Unit located and arrested Harris about 8:30 a.m. The investigation still continues, though no further information was available beyond the news release, Constable Darius Goze said.

No injuries were reported after the Nov. 4 blast at the assembly plant that happened at 5:45 p.m. and briefly paused production that evening. A detonated device was found in a vacant second-floor storage area on the west side of the plant.

"We want to thank the Windsor Police Department and the entire task force for their swift response in investigating this incident and helping to ensure the safety of our workforce," Stellantis spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in a statement. "We remain grateful that no one was harmed as a result of this deliberate action."

The explosion happened amid disagreement between the automaker and Canadian autoworkers union Unifor. The union is objecting to Stellantis' plans to enforce a requirement that all workers at its Canadian facilities get the COVID-19 vaccine or face consequences, including termination of employment.

Windsor employs 4,213 hourly and 185 salaried workers on two shifts, but Stellantis last month informed employees it would cut the second shift and about 1,800 jobs in April as a result of the ongoing global microchip shortage; a third shift and 1,500 jobs were dropped last year.

The automaker, however, says it will uphold its commitments in its 2019 contract with Unifor, which include a $1.13 billion investment into Windsor by 2024 for a new platform supporting plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. With that investment, Unifor says the plant will return to three shifts.

The Major Crime Unit continues to investigate the blast and is seeking information that may assist. Investigators can be reached at at 519-255-6700 ext. 4830 or ext. 4000 after hours. Anonymous tips may be sent to Crime Stoppers at 519-258-8477 or online at www.catchcrooks.com.