Local and federal law enforcement officials are investigating an explosion on Tuesday near the office of the NAACP Colorado Springs chapter.
Investigators are examining an improvised explosive device made with a gas cannister that went off near the building that houses the NAACP chapter and a hair salon. And authorities are looking for a a person of interest described as a “Caucasian male, approximately 40 years of age, and balding.”
The FBI, which is leading the investigation, has not shared many details on the incident.
The explosion has led to speculation that the incident could have been a hate crime or act of terrorism.
“This certainly raises questions of a potential hate crime,” Sondra Young, president of the NAACP Denver chapter told the LA Times.
The FBI is looking into all possible motives, according to FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders.
“We are exploring all possibilities of motive and it is not yet known who was the intended target,” Sanders told TPM. “It has also not yet been determined if the motive was a hate crime, domestic terrorism, a personal act of violence against a specific individual, or other motive as there are numerous individuals and entities tied to the building in the vicinity of the explosion.”
After the explosion on Tuesday, Henry Allen Jr., president of the Colorado Springs chapter told The Gazette it was too soon to call the incident a hate crime. The chapter has been updating its Facebook page with news about the explosion, and Allen has indicated that the explosion will not scare the organization away from its work.
“We’ll move on,” Allen said in a statement on Facebook. “This won’t deter us from doing the job we want to do in the community.”
According to Catharine Buckley, the public information officer for the Colorado Springs police department, instances of hate crime in the city over the past few years have been more of the nature of offensive graffiti for the most part.
The department did not have statistics on hate crimes in the city immediately available. But Buckley mentioned one serious bias-related crime in the city in recent years that she considered an “outlier.”
In September 2014, police arrested a white male for attempted first-degree murder and bias-motivated crimes after he allegedly shot at three black men while yelling racial slurs in a convenience store parking lot.
If the explosion near the Colorado Springs NAACP office turns out to be bias-motivated, it wouldn’t be the first such attack on an NAACP office.
According to a list compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six NAACP offices or members have been bombed between 1965 and 1993.
The most recent attacks on NAACP offices occurred in California. The Sacramento NAACP office was firebombed and the San Francisco chapter was attacked by arsonists in 1993.