Tags: Student | Admits | Placing | Pipe | Bombs

Student Admits Placing Pipe Bombs

Wednesday, 08 May 2002 12:00 AM

The 21-year-old Helder was ordered held without bail pending his transfer to Iowa during a brief hearing late Wednesday in Reno. Helder, who had been under suicide watch at the Washoe County jail, smiled at reporters Wednesday morning as he was taken to the federal courthouse under heavy guard.

Federal prosecutors in Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa quickly filed explosives charges as soon as it was learned that he had been arrested near Lovelock. Texas and Colorado, where additional pipe bombs were planted, have not yet filed charges.

NBC News reported that law enforcement sources said Wednesday that Helder had told FBI agents that he had built two dozen bombs at his apartment in Wisconsin and a Nebraska motel room and had pointed out the spots on the maps where the devices were found.

"This was an incident of national concern that received a national response," said Charles W. Larson, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa.

Larson announced Tuesday night that Helder had been charged in a criminal complaint with one count of using a destructive device to commit a crime of violence and one count of using an explosive to maliciously destroy property affecting interstate commerce.

Mailboxes are considered to be a part of interstate commerce, which places them under federal jurisdiction.

The Iowa charges stem from the May 3 bombing of a mailbox in rural Tipton that left a woman hospitalized with injuries that included a broken tooth and a damaged eardrum.

An affidavit filed by a Cedar Rapids FBI agent in support of the Iowa complaint stated that it was Helder's adoptive father who had provided the tip that led to their suspect after he had found a disturbing letter from the youth on May 6.

"Helder's adoptive father said he believed his son was responsible for the pipe bombings recently reported in various states," said the affidavit written by FBI Agent Scott B. French. "Helder's adoptive father stated the letter referred to death and dying as well as several anti-government comments. Additionally, Helder referred to an elaborate plan that he was prepared to carry out, and that he was prepared to die or go to prison for it."

The letter also contained the statement, "Mailboxes are exploding," words that were found on

Helder's father later contacted the bureau and said Luke's college roommate had telephoned to say he had found possible bomb-making materials under his bed.

In all, 18 pipe bombs were found in mailboxes seemingly selected at random along country roads in five states stretching from Illinois to Texas. Six of the devices exploded, injuring two residents and four letter carriers.

The anti-government statements found with the pipe bombs led federal investigators to label the bombings as acts of domestic terrorism. At the time, the bomber was believed by criminal profilers to be out to win attention and not necessarily to kill anyone. They cited the relatively small size of the bombs and their placement in isolated areas.

Helder's father, Cameron Helder, told reporters Tuesday at the family home in Pine Island, Minn., "I want you to know that Luke is not a dangerous person."

To the contrary, the bombings, which began last week, not only injured the six victims but rattled residents and postal carriers in the nation's heartland. Residents along rural delivery routes were advised to leave their mailboxes open if they wanted to have their mail delivered.

Helder was taken into custody late Tuesday along a rural stretch of Interstate 80 when his car was spotted just eight hours after the FBI had issued a nationwide alert for him. After a brief pursuit and standoff, Helder was coaxed into surrendering by hostage negotiators.

"This was good teamwork by the Nebraska-Iowa Joint Terrorism Task Force, other law enforcement and all those alert citizens who provided information," FBI Director Robert Mueller said in a statement.

It was not clear where Helder was going when he was arrested. A law enforcement source told the Sacramento Bee that it was possible he was following I-80 into northern California.

There were also questions Wednesday about Helder's possible role in the most recent bomb discovery in Amarillo, Texas. Since the discovery was made 1,000 miles from Lovelock, it raised the possibility that a copycat might have been involved. Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The 21-year-old Helder was ordered held without bail pending his transfer to Iowa during a brief hearing late Wednesday in Reno. Helder, who had been under suicide watch at the Washoe County jail, smiled at reporters Wednesday morning as he was taken to the federal...
Wednesday, 08 May 2002 12:00 AM
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