Pipe bomb case: Authorities inundated with tips about 'person of interest'

10:48 PM, Apr 21, 2011   |    comments
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The FBI identified a person of interest in what they are calling a case of domestic terrorism in Jefferson County. 9Wants to Know has learned that the propane tanks used in the incident at Southwest Plaza were bought at the Target store across the street from the mall.

A pipe bomb and two propane tanks were found at Southwest Plaza Mall after a fire started just before noon on Wednesday. Police released surveillance photos of the man FBI agents are looking for.

They are not calling him a suspect, but a person of interest. He is described as a white man with graying hair and a gray mustache. He was last seen wearing a dark-colored cap, a striped shirt, a dark jacket with silver buttons, and blue jeans. If you have any information that can help track down the person responsible, call 303-271-5615.

9Wants to Know has learned employees at the Target are being asked to help investigators come up with a sketch of the person who bought the propane tanks.

The pipe bomb and the propane tanks were both flown to Quantico, Va. to be analyzed by the FBI.

Since the FBI is involved, any suspect arrested in connection with the case will face federal charges.

Southwest Plaza reopened Thursday morning after being closed for all of Wednesday afternoon and evening. Hundreds of employees were evacuated from the mall on Wednesday.

Investigators say there are, on average, anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 people in the mall around noon everyday.

Investigators first noticed a fire near the food court just before lunchtime. The fire was out in just a few minutes and did not spread. After a closer look, firefighters found two propane tanks nearby. A pipe bomb was also found.

The bomb squad wanted to detonate it, but when they picked it up, the pipe bomb fell apart in their hands. Police say this could have been a very serious incident, but no one was hurt.

The fact that the pipe bomb and propane tanks were found on the 12th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School is not lost on investigators. The mall is just two miles away from the school. At the Columbine shootings, a pipe bomb and two propane tanks were brought to the school. They did not go off.

There was a heightened security presence at Southwest Plaza on Thursday after it reopened. The area where the fire was located was limited to authorized personnel.

A picture of the corridor where the fire was shows a burned area near electrical boxes. The corridor is located near the Dillard's, Al's Formal Wear and Mastercuts.

One of the people who went to the mall on Thursday was a student from Columbine High School.

"I thought it [the pipe bomb] was pretty disrespectful considering it was the anniversary of the Columbine shooting and I just thought it was stupid for whoever did that," Cyrus Allen, a Columbine student, said.

On Wednesday, 9NEWS talked with Troy Eid, a member of the Columbine Commission - a group that investigated the tragedy. He is also the former U.S. Attorney for Colorado. Eid says because of the similarities between Wednesday's situation and Columbine, investigators are looking to see if this was a copycat crime.

9Wants to Know is continuing to investigate this story. If you have any information, contact our 9Wants to Know investigators and "blow the whistle" or call the tip line at 303-271-5615.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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