A man who placed a homemade bomb outside a small town police station in Colorado tried to detonate the explosive using a cell phone, but the device failed, federal authorities say.
David Michael Ansberry, 64, of California, was arrested this weekend in Chicago, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado said Monday in a press release.
The bomb was left outside the Nederland police station on October 11, authorities say. The station is located in a shopping center in the small Boulder County town of about 1,400 people. The town has five police officers.
Bob Troyer, the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, said the investigation is ongoing. He said it appears to have been an isolated incident. No motive has been released.
Ansberry, who stands 3 foot 6 inches tall, is a little person, and his height played a role in police finding him in Chicago over the weekend, authorities told the Associated Press.
Police have not said why Ansberry was in Chicago or released any other details about his arrest there. Ansberry was taken into custody after exiting a plane at Chicago’s Midway Airport, KCNC-TV reports. He is expected to be extradited back to Colorado to face the federal charges.
Ansberry was charged with attempted destruction of a building or property by means of fire or explosive, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Detective Thought the Bag Was Lost Property & Brought It Into the Police Station Before Realizing It Was an IED
The backpack containing an improvised explosive device was found outside the Nederland Police Department in the Caribou Ridge Shopping Center on the morning of October 11, FBI Special Agent Kevin Hoyland wrote in the criminal complaint charging David Michael Ansberry.
You can read the full criminal complaint above or by clicking here.
“The PD is small, consisting of five officers and is located in the only strip mall in town,” Holyand wrote. “On either side of the police department, as well as the second story of the strip mall, are retail businesses selling a variety of products in and affecting interstate commerce. Additionally, the parking lot is shared by the primary grocery store in the area.”
Hoyland, the lead investigator in the case, said the bag was found by a detective who thought it was “lost property found by a resident.” The detective was the first officer to arrive at the police station, which is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“The detective, thinking that the bag was lost property found by a resident, as is common in that area, picked up the bag and brought it inside the PD. After going about his morning routine, the detective returned to the bag and went to open it,” Hoyland wrote in the complaint. “On opening the bag, the detective discovered that there was a cellular device with wires coming off of the phone, connecting to a battery and a suspicious powder. The detective immediately recognized it as an improvised explosive device and carefully brought the device back outside, before evacuating the PD and neighboring businesses.”
The bomb was then disabled by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad, authorities said.
2. Ansberry Was Seen on Surveillance Video Buying Phones Used for the Device, Investigators Say
Ansberry was tracked down using surveillance video recorded at stores where cell phones used for the explosive device were purchased, according to the criminal complaint.
Police found the phones after the device was disabled by a bomb squad robot, FBI Special Agent Kevin Hoyland wrote in the complaint.
“The results of this analysis showed that the telephone number assigned to the detonator was 720-365-8360. Upon review of the call log for that phone, investigators learned that telephone number 720-365-7811 had dialed
the detonator multiple times in an attempt to engage the bomb,” Hoyland said.
Both of the numbers were registered to AT&T subsidiary TracFone. Through search warrants, investigators tracked the phones to two Kroger grocery stores, one in Denver and one in Longmont.
“Agents were dispatched to those locations and were successful in obtaining surveillance video of the purchases,” Hoyland wrote. “Each purchase was conducted by a short male (later learned to be 3’6”), who had a pony tail, wore a baseball hat and was using crutches. Both transactions were made with cash.”
Nederland Police Chief Paul Carrill told investigators he saw a person matching that description during evacuations from the Boulder Creek Lodge, a motel located across from the police department, on the morning the bomb was discovered.
“The motel was able to confirm they had a guest the night of the bombing that matched that description and provided a copy of his senior citizens identification card,” which included Ansberry’s personal information, Hoyland said.
3. Ansberry, Who May Have Ties to a 60s Radical Group, Was Traveling Through the Rockies, Relatives Say
Federal sources told KCNC-TV’s Brian Maass that Ansberry is tied to a 1960s-era radical group from Boulder. They said he might have been holding a grudge for 40 years.
Ansberry is originally from San Rafael, California, and came to Colorado about a year ago to travel through the Rockies, a relative told KMGH-TV.
The relative said Ansberry’s family members were surprised to hear the news, according to KMGH. The relative said Ansberry was living in Berkeley, California, and then left to save money.
No criminal record for Ansberry in California or Colorado could be found Monday. He has also lived in Honolulu, Hawaii, according to public records.
4. He Faces Between 5 to 20 Years in Federal Prison if Convicted
David Ansberry faces a potential sentence of between five to twenty years in federal prison if convicted of attempted destruction of a building or property by means of fire or explosive, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.
He also faces a fine of up to $250,000.
Ansberry appeared in federal court in Chicago for the first time on Sunday.
The case was investigated by the FBI, Nederland Police, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, prosecutors said.
“Thanks to the tireless work of this team of law enforcement professionals, a man who is charged with placing a dangerous device in a public place is in custody,” Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said in a statement. “The FBI, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, the Nederland Police Department, and the ATF pulled together, dismantled this explosive device, and tracked down the man who allegedly made and placed it. Outstanding work all around.”
Authorities are asking the public for help in finding more information about the case.
“The investigation is ongoing, but authorities believe based upon the information discovered to date that this was an isolated incident,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said. “If members of the public believe they have information regarding this incident they are asked to call the FBI at 303-629-7171.”
5. ‘Folks Are Still Confused as to Why It Occurred,’ the Town’s Administrator Says
The small town of Nederland was “rattled” by the incident, according to the Associated Press, which describes the town as being “best known for its love of legal marijuana and its annual celebration of a frozen corpse that draws tens of thousands of revelers.”
Alisha Reis, the town’s administrator, told the AP residents are pleased an arrest was made, but still have many questions.
“The community knows there has been an arrest, and that goes to calming people’s fears,” Reis said. “But folks are still confused as to why it occurred. Who is this person? And why would he have done it here?”
According to the AP, Nederland is home to many “artists and hippies” and has “long thrived on its embrace of outsiders.” The news organization said there have been recent complaints about homeless campers and wanderers.
Two transients from Alabama who were camping near Nederland were arrested this summer after police said they accidentally sparked the Cold Springs fire, which destroyed eight homes, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.
Longtime Nederland residents said there is not an apparent anti-police sentiment in the small town, according to the Associated Press.