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Mailbox Bombing Suspect Identified - 2002-05-07


The FBI says it is looking for a 21-year old man for questioning in connection with a series of mailbox pipe bombs that have been planted in the central part of the United States since Friday. Eighteen devices have been found in five U.S. states.

The FBI has issued an all-points bulletin for a man named Luke John Helder. They say he is a university student and is believed to be driving a Honda Accord automobile with Minnesota license plates. F-B-I special agent Jim Bogner told reporters in Omaha, Nebraska Mr. Helder has not been charged with a crime.

"We are seeking this individual to talk to him about these pipe bombs, about these explosions," he said.

Mr. Bogner describes Mr. Helder as an intelligent person with strong family ties. An official at the University of Wisconsin campus in the town of Menomonie, Wisconsin says Mr. Helder is a third-year student majoring in art.

The announcement that officials are looking for Mr. Helder came just a few hours after it was revealed that another mailbox pipe bomb had been found Monday afternoon in Amarillo, Texas. Mr. Bogner thinks Mr. Helder might still be in the south-central part of the country.

"I think if you look at the devices that we have discovered, that have been discovered by law enforcement, the path he has traveled from Illinois to Iowa to Nebraska to Colorado to Texas, we think he may be located in that part of the country," he said.

The Amarillo pipe bomb was the 18th device found since Friday, and the fifth state in which the bombs had been planted. Six people were hurt Friday in Illinois and Iowa when mailbox bombs there exploded. None of the others found in the three other states have gone off.

People who live in areas where pipe bombs have been found are being told to leave the doors open on roadside mailboxes, so that letter carriers can safely look inside before dropping off the day's mail. Kenny Smith is with the Postal Service in Amarillo, Texas.

"We want to emphasize to the public as strong as we can: if you find something in your mailbox, leave the door open, get away from it as quickly as possible, do not handle it, contact local law enforcement: the Postal Inspection Service, FBI authorities," he said.

Most of the pipe bombs have been accompanied by an anti-government note, complaining of government intrusion in to people's lives. The note says in part, "I am obtaining your attention the only way I know how. More 'attention-getters' are on the way." The notes are signed, "someone who cares."