Investigators still seeking bomb suspect

Friday, June 18, 2010 ~ Updated 2:04 PM
Residents in the quiet community of Osage were shocked to learn a bomb had been left in the fellowship hall at the Osage Baptist Church in downtown Osage, located across the street from the historic Stamps Store where Newt Lale operates his Osage Clayworks shop. Lale and his dog Dolche looked to where all the action took place last week when a bomb squad was called to dismantle the device. Lale said he is perplexed that such a thing would happen in beautiful downtown Osage. Anna Mathews

OSAGE -- No one has claimed responsibility for the bomb discovered at the Osage Baptist Church last Wednesday -- a bomb that failed to explode when moved by an unsuspecting church secretary.

It was safely dismantled by a bomb squad later in the day and its fragments are now at an FBI crime lab for analysis, investigators say.

Experts have classified the bomb as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), saying it was fashioned from a soda can containing explosives and a triggering mechanism.

They say the mechanism was designed to trigger an explosion when the can was lifted from the surface where it sat -- in this case, from a reception counter in the foyer of the church.

It was discovered by the church secretary Wednesday morning after more than 30 people passed through the foyer to vote in the Preferential Primary Run-off Election the day before, on Tuesday, June 8.

The Osage Baptist Church has been the polling site for Osage Township voters the past 40 years or more, according to those who have voted there.

The IED was carried outside by a church member and was later dismantled by the Bentonville Bomb Squad who used a water cannon to render it harmless.

Following the bomb's discovery, election officials were notified and other polling sites checked. No other IEDs were found.

Because the IED was placed inside a church that also serves as a polling site, the FBI was notified, along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

According to J.J. Reddick, an investigator with the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, eight FBI agents and one ATF agent assisted county investigators last week with the initial round of interviews.

Reddick said witness testimony has led investigators to believe the bomb was in the foyer by 9 a.m. election day.

He said all four poll workers were interviewed, along with voters who cast ballots at the church that morning.

The interviews have continued this week, he said, as investigators and agents try to pinpoint the exact time the IED was placed in the foyer.

"The current time frame is 7:30 to 9 a.m. Tuesday, based on someone who saw it sitting there at 9 a.m.," he said. "It could have been sometime Sunday through Tuesday. We're trying to figure out when it was placed."

Reddick said he is also fingerprinting everyone who touched the soda can, including himself, to eliminate those prints from any found on the can by crime lab technicians.

Reddick was wearing rubber gloves at the time, but he said he will put his prints in the mix to be on the safe side.

Four others touched the can before it was dismantled, he said. Those included church members and polling officials.

Authorities have received no tips to help them solve the case, Reddick said, or phone calls from people claiming responsibility.

"If it had gone off, we likely would have heard from several," he noted.

Anyone with information is asked to call Reddick at the sheriff's office, or call their local law enforcement agency.

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