An East Texas man who federal prosecutors allege left explosive devices including pipe bombs in multiple area mail boxes, was motivated in part by anger at the government, Brit Featherston, first assistant U. S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas tells TPMmuckraker in a phone interview.
“It does appear that there were two motives: one, that he was disenchanted with the federal government, and, two, he was disenchanted with an individual who he perceived that had wronged him,” says Featherston of 52-year-old Larry North, who was arrested today.North was indicted Wednesday on a charge of illegally possessing a pipe bomb. (Read the indictment here.) Authorities had identified North as a person of interest in connection with a string of incidents in which explosive devices were placed in mailboxes in East Texas.
They say that he was witnessed putting a pipe bomb in a collection box in Tyler Wednesday. Prosecutors say North distributed 36 devices in 23 locations, but he has not been charged beyond the possession count.
No injuries have been reported from the string of incidents. Prosecutors released this timeline of the alleged incidents.
Featherston tells TPMmuckraker that federal postal workers were endangered by the devices, along with firefighters and police who responded. He said the investigation into North’s motives is still in the early stages.
Fox reports that the Treasury Inspector General of the Tax Administration (TIGTA) is involved in the case, for reasons that are not yet clear. The agency investigates threats made toward IRS employees, data infrastructure (computers), and facilities, a TIGTA official tells TPM.
Video of North’s arrest by the Tyler Morning Telegraph show police easing a wheelchair-bound man into a van.
The AP, which reports that stories about explosives showing up in mail boxes began about a month ago, has more context:
The first reports of incendiary devices in mailboxes involved bottles containing flammable liquids and wicks, authorities said. Devices resembling pipe bombs then started turning up, which raised the sense of danger felt by 27-year-old Longview resident Robert Ziemba. One pipe bomb was found in a mailbox on a busy street in Longview.
As federal agents searched North’s home today in Rusk County, neighbors expressed surprise that the man they knew as the driver of the children’s train at the annual Henderson Syrup Festival was linked to the bombs. KLTV has more.
Late Update: After a request by North’s attorney, the judge in the case has ordered a psychiatric exam of North to determine if he is competent to stand trial.
North “has a constellation of physical and emotional issues — just enormous challenges for him,” Ken Hawk, the assistant federal defender assigned to the case, said in a phone interview with TPMmuckraker.
Late 4/9/10 Update: We look at why North may have been angry at the government.