Bombers on the loose

Published 10:20 am Monday, September 25, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
Several residents in northwest Escambia County, Fla., have been the recipients of an unwanted delivery in their mailboxes this week.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the state fire marshal's office are investigating six mailbox bombs and one mailbox fire that are believed to have happened in the earlier part of last week.
"Two of the bombs were placed in mailboxes in Molino, Fla., earlier this week and then the two in McDavid, Fla., occurred sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning," United States Postal Inspector Alexandra Papageorge said. "One of the McDavid boxes turned out to be a mailbox fire."
The second mailbox in McDavid was torched Thursday, Papageorge said. The other three damaged mailboxes are in Ponce de Leon in Holmes County, Fla..
The bombs were made with a mix of household chemicals such as Draino and aluminum foil in a plastic bottle according to Papageorge. The homemade bombs explode from a chemical reaction among the ingredients as they are heated and moved around.
The Internet offers step-by-step instructions on how to create such a device investigators said.
"In some of the cases it has been a 2-liter bottle and a smaller plastic bottle in others, but the ingredients are the same," Papageorge said. "The interaction with the aluminum and Draino combined with the heat causes the explosion. In some cases, it has blown the mailbox completely off its stand and then in others, it has just burned the inside."
The United States Postal Inspection Office is working in cooperation with the Escambia County Fire Marshals Office and the Escambia County Sheriff's Dept.
"We are in the preliminary stages conducting interviews and getting background information," Papageorge said. "The mailboxes hit appear to be randomly chosen and at this point we do not know if the two in Molino and McDavid are related. All four were blown up in a similar fashion."
Papageorge was notified Thursday when the postmaster at the local post office notified the state office.
"The residents called the Post Office to notify them that they needed their mail service redelivered," Papageorge said. "When the post office inquired, the residents told them about their damaged box. The post office then followed protocol and notified us."
According to Papageorge and Kevin Fiedor, a Lieutenant, with the Escambia County Fire Marshals Office, several mailboxes were destroyed in Pensacola, Fla., more than a month ago with the same type explosive being used in the north end of the county.
"We made five arrests in that case," Fiedor said. "They were all high school students and have been charged with a 2nd degree felony that has a 20-year sentence attached to it. They were judicated as adults and are awaiting final sentencing."
Fiedor said that he is currently working with the postal inspectors and the sheriff's office conducting interviews.
"We are hoping to get help from the public to solve these crimes," Fiedor said. "Maybe someone who saw something or has heard someone talking about it. We are actively seeking information."
Until the culprits are caught, Papageorge and Fiedor are asking residents in Molino, Fla., and McDavid, Fla., to be cautious when checking their mail.
"No one has been injured yet," Papageorge said. "But if you go to your box and see something (unusual), don't touch it," she said. "Call local law enforcement right away. Do not touch or attempt to remove the object because any movement can cause it to explode."
Anyone with information on the bombings is asked to call postal inspectors at (877) 696-5322 or the fire marshal's office at (800) 638-3473.

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