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Few details emerge in NAACP bombing investigation

January 14, 2015 Updated: January 14, 2015 at 8:43 am
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Few details have emerged this week as the FBI continues an investigation into a bombing attempt of a building that houses the local chapter of the NAACP and a barbershop.

While law enforcement officials search for a man who may have been involved in the detonation of the explosive device on the morning of Jan. 6, the president of the NAACP's Colorado Springs branch called for patience.

"Something happened here," Henry Allen Jr. said Tuesday. "I don't have the resources to resolve this; that's why I'm depending on the folks like the FBI, with their manpower and resources, to come to a conclusion."

What the FBI has called an improvised explosive device went off around 10:45 a.m. last week near the northeast corner of the building at 603 S. El Paso St., which houses the NAACP office and Mr. G's Hair Design Studios. The explosion occurred adjacent to the wall of the barbershop, and no one was injured. The building was not damaged beyond charring on the outside wall. Police initially reported that an explosion had been heard outside of the barbershop, but the FBI became involved because of the proximity of the blast to the NAACP office and because an IED was used, an FBI spokeswoman told The Gazette in an email.

Authorities have not confirmed details of the item found at the scene, but Gene Southerland, who owns the building and the barbershop, said police told him the explosion was caused by a flare and a type of pipe bomb next to a gas can, which did not ignite.

In a news conference Friday, Thomas Ravenelle, special agent in charge from the FBI's Denver division, said the IED was not a sophisticated device.

Since the incident, about a half dozen people have questioned The Gazette as to whether the blast occurred because a picture on Google Maps from September shows a dark stain on the northeast wall of the building near where the device exploded. The darkest part of the mark, which can be seen in the Google Maps image taken before the blast, is separated by inches from the mark caused by the Jan. 6 explosion. The two stains do not have the same shape or coloration, and the FBI has stated that the wall has "minimal surface charring."

When asked about the claims Tuesday, Allen said that while the FBI has not said how much damage occurred to the building's wall, they have told him new marks were caused by the explosion.

"The FBI has concluded there was minimum damage by the explosive device," he said. "I would caution all, pro and con, not to jump to conclusions of what was there and what wasn't there."

Southerland declined to comment about the attempted bombing, the extent of the marks left on the wall and questions of whether an explosion occurred. "I don't have any time for this nonsense," he said Tuesday.

At the Friday news conference, authorities released a sketch of a man who is a person of interest in the investigation. He is described as a balding white man in his 40s who witnesses say was driving a dirty 2000 or older-model white pickup truck with a covered or missing license plate.

While authorities have not determined a motive, Ravenelle said it would be "naive" not to consider that the explosion could be a hate crime because the NAACP is a national organization that has received threats in the past.

At the NAACP office Tuesday, Allen urged caution as people try to determine what happened and who may have been a target. But he repeatedly disputed claims that there was not an attack on the building.

"I don't think the FBI would spend this amount of manpower and resources if they didn't think there was a credible threat from the device," Allen said. "I would love to think there was no one who would want to damage this building."

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Contact Stephen Hobbs: 
636-0275

Twitter @bystephenhobbs

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