FBI: Colorado Springs NAACP Bombing May be Domestic Terrorism
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating Tuesday’s explosion outside a building housing the Colorado Springs office of the NAACP as a possible hate crime or act of domestic terrorism.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reports investigators have not yet determined the motivation behind the bombing, and that several possibilities are being explored.
“It is certainly a possibility of being a hate crime or domestic terrorism, however we are exploring all possibilities of potential motive,” Denver FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders told the paper.
US Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner told the Gazette that an assistant US attorney with expertise in “both terrorism-related matters and matters related to destructive devices” is supporting the FBI investigation.
That probe, which involves federal, state and local law enforcement officials, has been ongoing since Tuesday’s blast, which rocked a building housing the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at 603 South El Paso Street at around 10:45 a.m. Police attributed the explosion to an improvised explosive device (IED).
Fortunately, no one was injured and damage was limited to a charred wall at Mr. G’s Hair Design Studios, a barber shop in the same building as the office of the civil rights group. Mr. G’s owner Gene Southerland told the Gazette that police told him the blast was caused by a flare and a pipe bomb next to a gas can, which did not explode.
State and national civil rights leaders condemned the bombing, calling it possible terrorism.
“This certainly raises questions of a potential hate crime,” Sondra Young, president of the Denver NAACP chapter, told the Los Angeles Times. “But at this point we’re still gathering information. It’s a very sad situation, but we’re happy our people in Colorado Springs are safe.”
Young added that her NAACP branch “stands tall with the community of Colorado Springs in rejecting an attempt to create fear, intimidation and racial divisiveness.”
“Although this is an active investigation, one thing is clear: This is an act of domestic terrorism,” she said.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), the only living member of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders, who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was one of the first Freedom Riders, tweeted that he was “deeply troubled by the bombing in Colorado.”
“It reminds me of another period,” he said, referring to the violence inflicted on civil rights activists and other blacks and their supporters in the 1960s. “These stories cannot be swept under the rug.”
Southerland, the barber shop owner, said he believes the bombing is related to the heightened racial tensions which have been stoked by numerous deaths of unarmed black men and boys by police officers. The NAACP has been very outspoken about these cases, including the August shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri officer Darren Wilson. A grand jurydeclined to indict Wilson, sparking weeks of civil unrest in Ferguson and in cities around the nation.
“Personally, I think that it’s all related,” Southerland told the Gazette. “What’s happening in Ferguson, what’s happening here, it’s all related.”
The Denver Post reports authorities are seeking a “person of interest” described as a white male, around 40 years old, who neighbors say they saw fleeing the scene of the explosion.
“He may be driving a 2000 or older model, dirty, white pickup truck with paneling, a dark-colored bed liner, open tailgate and a missing or covered license plate,” the FBI said, urging anyone with information about the case to call 303-435-7787.