Four federal explosives charges have been filed against a disgruntled former member of the military accused of bombing an Air Force recruiting center in Bixby, Oklahoma. No one was injured Monday night when the blast rattled the office in a strip mall near Tulsa, blowing the doors off and causing “extensive” damage, the FBI says.
Benjamin Don Roden, 28, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon, KJRH-TV reports.
Federal court records show Roden was charged in a criminal complaint Tuesday with malicious damage to federal property by use of explosive, use of explosive to commit federal felony and two counts of destruction of federal property.
Roden, who served in the Air Force and the Oklahoma Air National Guard and was upset by the circumstances surrounding his discharge, has made anti-government posts on his Facebook page in recent days. Details of his military service and discharge were not immediately available.
He was discharged from the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 138th Fighter Wing, based in Tulsa, in April 2017, KJRH reports.
Authorities said early Tuesday they were investigating the case as possible “domestic terrorism” because the target was a military office. But later in the day, the FBI hesitated on defining it as terrorism, saying until a suspect and motive were found, “we’re treating it as strictly a criminal investigation with an explosive device.”
Special Agent Jessi Rice, a FBI spokesperson from the Oklahoma City field office, told reporters, “We don’t know if it was a disgruntled employee, an act of domestic terrorism, just someone playing games.”
But later in the day, authorities said it appeared to be a “criminal act” with an explosive device, not necessarily terrorism, but a motive had not been officially determined.
The explosion was reported about 10:30 p.m. Monday at the recruiting center near East 103rd Street and South Memorial, the FBI said. Bixby Police responded along with the Tulsa Police bomb squad. The FBI has since taken the lead in the investigation, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisting.
Rice said the Air Force facility was the target.
Roden was booked into the Tulsa Jail at 5:46 p.m. Tuesday on a U.S. Marshal hold, records show.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Roden Blamed the Air Force for Not Helping Him Become an Electrician & Causing the Marines From Turning Him Down, the FBI Says
Ben Roden was a former senior airman in the Air Force, according to court documents. He was trained as a firefighter.
According to the FBI, Roden wanted to be trained as an electrician, but resigned when he learned he was not going to be able to complete all the necessary training to become a certified electrician.
Sergeant Brian Curtis, Roden’s last commanding office in the Air Force, told investigators that Roden was “smart and capable of constructing electronic devices,” but “hated the military and had received disciplinary actions for his conduct.
Roden also “wanted to quit the Air Force and join the U.S. Marines, however the U.S. Marines would not accept Roden. Sgt. Curtis said Roden blamed the U.S. Air Force for preventing him from being accepted by the U.S. Marines.”
Roden posted an apparent threat about damaging a government vehicle on his Facebook page on July 9.
“That government vehicle looks beautiful setting outside that office in tulsa. That is how I am going to make up for 2 years 7 months without a job and harrassment,” he wrote.
Vandalism was reported on July 9 at another recruiting center across the street from where the bombing occurred, the FBI said in court documents. An Air Force recruiter told investigators that a U.S. government vehicle assigned to a reserve recruiter was damaged with “all four tires on the vehicle” slashed and “all the windows” broken.
The FBI said someone sent letters to the Air National Guard Base in Tulsa, which arrived on July 7. The letter included a photo of a white male with “Ben Roden” written next to it and four comments from his Facebook page. The comments, which you can read below, are not publicly viewable on Roden’s page:
Roden talked on social media about how his time in the military ended, according to a post on his Facebook page. In the September 2016 post, a friend asked him, “Bro did you ever get everything straightened out with your discharge the reason why I ask is I was in the Air Force years ago and I have never had no problem with them I am so sorry man that you had all this s*** happen to you.”
Roden replied, “no I did not. thanks.”
The same friend commented on another photo in November, writing, “sorry sir you look really tired and I can understand that from all this stupidity from the service I hope there is a resolution to this soon for you.”
Roden was at one point stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, according to public records.
2. A Witness Says a Person on a Motorcycle Threw a Backpack ‘Pipe Bomb’ at the Door of the Recruiting Office & Sped Off Before the Blast
A witness told KJRH-TV that a person on a red motorcycle, described as a “crotch rocket” threw a backpack at the Air Force recruiting center and then drove off. The backpack then blew up. The witness said it appeared there was a “pipe bomb” inside the backpack.
No one was inside the building. There were cars in the parking lot that were damaged, but no one was in the cars, the FBI said. No injuries have been reported.
According to court documents, a witness staying at a hotel near the recruiting center saw a red motorcycle speeding through a four-way stop in the parking lot where the center is located. The witness said he “narrowly missed colliding with the motorcyclist,” who then sped away from the scene.
The witness said as the motorcyclist was driving off, “he heard an explosion from the area where he first observed the motorcyclist in the parking lot.”
FBI investigators tracked down Roden after identifying the license plate number of the motorcycle. Agents then surveilled his apartment and witnessed him arriving on the red motorcycle, a 2015 Honda Model CB300.
You can read the criminal complaint below:
An FBI spokesperson told the Tulsa World that evidence was collected at the scene, including a pipe. They will attempt to reconstruct the bomb as part of the investigation.
Rice told the newspaper that agents investigating the explosion have reached “no conclusion” on intent.
In a statement, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said, “While device origin and motive is not known at this time, the site of the explosion is a military office. The possibility of domestic terrorism cannot be excluded at this time. ATF and FBI will continue to process the scene and follow leads until a more definitive determination is made.”
The person of interest, identified Benjamin Roden, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon at an apartment complex in south Tulsa, Fox 23 News reports.
The FBI and the Tulsa Police Department bomb squad were at the Sand Dollar apartment complex at 61st and Riverside in Tulsa, KJRH-TV reports.
Roden was taken into custody about 3 p.m. Tuesday. He was being interviewed by FBI agents with the Oklahoma City field office, authorities said.
FBI agents searched Roden’s apartment and found “materials and items associated with the manufacturing o explosive devices,” according to court documents. Those items included:
Galvanized steel pipe nipple, electric wiring components, electronic schematics, electrical reference guide, wires and circuit board, batteries, wire cutters, drill bits, power drill, a book entitled “Practical Electronics for Inventors, handwritten notes, Sulfur powder, potassium nitrate, Pyrodex and other unknown powders.
The FBI also said they found a bag containing two pipe bombs.The bag was X-rayed and showed “two ammo cans each with capped pipe bombs with project boxes attached.”
The FBI also seized an application for a German national visa, cell phones, more than $3,800 in cash, a magazine containing .45 caliber ammunition, a Model 1911-A1 .45 caliber handgun and a Rock River Arms AR-15 rifle.
Roden was expected to appear in federal court Wednesday afternoon. He faces between 5 to 20 years on each of the explosives charges and up to 10 years in prison on each of the destruction of federal property charges.
Federal prosecutors are seeking to have Roden held in custody until his trial.
3. Roden’s Facebook Page Includes Several Selfies & a Video Showing Him Making a ‘Homemade Alarm System’
Along with the apparent threat to a government vehicle, Roden has posted several selfies on his Facebook page, including one where he is nearly nude.
In December 2016 he posted a Facebook video titled, “complete homemade alarm system.” You can watch the video below:
“How to make a key-deactivated alarm for your house. It’s deactivated once you come inside, so once somebody comes inside they wouldn’t really have time to get it off unless they have the key for it,” Roden says in the video, before holding up his hand-drawn plans for the alarm.
“I haven’t really made sure that all of this is perfectly sized, but it works, and it keeps working, and that’s what I care about,” he says in the video while explaining the different parts of the alarm system.
His last known employer was Advanced Chemical Research in Catoosa, Oklahoma, the FBI says. According to his Facebook page, he has been employed for more than two years.
Roden posted several photos inside a house on May 11, writing, “I guess this is how ex marines live. Ex marine (redacted)’s house from sand springs Oklahoma.”
He was a bodybuilder as a teen, according to a video posted to Youtube:
Roden is originally from Sand Springs, according to public records. He is listed in public records as a registered Republican, but his registration is described as inactive. He first registered to vote in Sand Springs in 2008. Roden does not have any political posts on his Facebook page.
Roden’s father, who died in 2009, “was a very patriotic man and proudly served his country in the Marine Corps,” according to his obituary. His father was also heavily involved in his church, Calvary Temple Assembly of God, a Christian congregation in Tulsa.
4. The Bomber Didn’t Appear to Want to Kill Anyone Because the Attack Happened at Night,
the FBI Says
The Air Force recruiting center is located in a shopping center alongside several other businesses, but photos from the scene show that the buildings appeared to be closed an unoccupied when the blast occurred.
“It’s a little bit comforting that they didn’t want to kill anybody,” FBI Special Agent Jessi Rice said at a press conference. “Obviously they would have done it in broad daylight if that were the case. So, from that standpoint, it’s a positive.”
Rice said he probably did it at night to hide, “didn’t want to be out in public with this incident.”
“Everyone’s OK, thank God,” Rice said. “They did it at night, which was a blessing. They obviously didn’t want to be seen, but they wanted to make some kind of statement. We were lucky on this count it wasn’t a day time attack.”
It appears that the explosion caused damage to at least one neighboring business, but the Air Force office was the most heavily damaged by the blast.
Nearby stores were open as usual on Tuesday. The front doors of the recruiting center were boarded up by Airmen about 7 a.m., the Tulsa World reports.
Rice told reporters the “textbook definition” of domestic terrorism is, “very broad. It’s basically any act of extremism that supports a religious belief, a political belief, a radical belief, anything like that. Something that instills fear in American citizens and the government.”
She said the FBI makes the determination if the case is domestic terrorism or not.
Benjamin Roden has been identified only as a “person of interest” and it is not clear if charges would be filed Tuesday.
5. The FBI Called the Bombing a ‘Hit on Our Military,’ Which Is a ‘Big Deal’
FBI Special Agent Jessi Rice told reporters that the FBI is taking the matter very seriously, calling it a “hit on our military,” during a press conference.
“That is a big deal to us,” she said. “This is something we do not take lightly by any means. The fact that it was an explosive device that was legitimate, that caused damage, that definitely kicks it up a few notches.”
Rice said they would be putting out a warning about the incident.
“Whenever there is a military facility targeted, we always put out a caution, ‘be extra vigilant at who’s roaming outside on the sidewalks, look at who might be hovering around, who might be scoping out your building, look for any unusual people coming in asking unusual questions and keeping track of your employees going in and out,'” Rice said. “You know, things like that that just don’t feel right.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI’s Oklahoma City field office at 405-290-7770.