Student to be Arraigned in Pipe Bomb Cases
Lucas John Helder -- sought in connection with 18 mailbox pipe bombs in five states -- was booked Tuesday night on a federal charge of possession of a firearm and two federal charges related to bomb incidents in Iowa.
Helder is expected to be taken from the jail to U.S. District Court in downtown Reno between 9 and 9:30 a.m. MDT, said Washoe County Sheriff Dennis Balaam.
Nevada authorities stopped Helder on Tuesday afternoon after a high-speed chase along Interstate 80. Pershing County Sheriff Ron Skinner said Helder tossed a shotgun out of a car window before voluntarily giving himself up. Law enforcement agents found live explosives in his trunk, Balaam said.
"He was very cooperative," said Skinner, whose deputies pursued Helder through Pershing County and kept up the chase with federal agents until Helder pulled over on his own. "I understand that he did exactly what he was told during the entire incident after the stop."
Balaam said authorities located Helder originally when he made a pair of cell phone calls and then began negotiations for his surrender.
Helder was turned over to federal authorities. The student threatened to harm himself when he surrendered, prompting the suicide watch, Balaam said.
Six of the bombs in Iowa and Illinois exploded Friday, wounding four postal employees and two others.
U.S. Attorney Charles W. Larson in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, charged Helder with two criminal counts. One count charges him with using an explosive to maliciously destroy property affecting interstate commerce. The other accuses him of using a destructive device to commit a crime of violence that wounded a woman when she opened her roadside mailbox in rural Tipton, Iowa.
The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois also filed federal charges Wednesday against Helder -- the same two as in Iowa. Also Wednesday, the student was charged in Nebraska with interstate transportation of explosives.
Authorities began looking at Helder as a suspect in the mailbox bombings as a result of two phone calls late Sunday to authorities in Menomonie, Wisconsin, the college town where he lived.
Menomonie Police Chief Dennis Beety said his department received a phone call about 11:10 p.m. Sunday from Helder's father, Cameron Helder. The father "called us and said he had received a letter from his son and the contents led him to believe his son may be involved," Beety said.
After receiving the tip, the FBI issued an all-points bulletin Tuesday seeking Lucas Helder for questioning. The FBI alert described Helder as "armed and dangerous" and said he was driving a car with a Minnesota license plate.
On the heels of the alert, the Badger Herald, the official student publication of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told authorities it had received a letter from Helder postmarked in Omaha, Nebraska, on Friday, the day the first pipe bombs were discovered in Illinois and Iowa.
More bombs were found in three other states in subsequent days. Altogether, three mailbox bombs were found in Illinois, five in Iowa, eight in Nebraska, one in Colorado and one in Texas, according to federal investigators.
Helder was a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie and a member of a three-person rock band called Apathy, investigators said.
The student newspaper said it turned the letter over to the FBI on Tuesday afternoon.
In his letter to the school paper, Helder said, "I will die/change in the end for this, but that's OK, hahaha paradise awaits! I'm dismissing a few individuals from reality, to change all of you for the better, surely you can understand my logic."
The letter was titled, "Explosions! A Bit of Evidence for You!"
The FBI bulletin was issued the day after the most recent bomb was found Monday afternoon in a curbside mailbox in a residential area of Amarillo, Texas, with a note containing "anti-government propaganda" attached.
The devices were cylindrical, about 6 inches long, three-quarters of an inch in diameter, with wires attached to a 9-volt battery.
Cameron Helder urged his son Tuesday not to hurt anyone before he surrendered to authorities in Nevada.
Letters with anti-government rhetoric accompanied all the bombs.
Authorities described Helder as "an intelligent young man with strong family ties."
Earlier Tuesday, Helder's father, Cameron, issued an emotional appeal to his son to turn himself in.
"Luke is not a dangerous person. He is just trying to make a statement," the elder Helder told reporters.
Choking back tears at times, the father added, "Luke, you need to talk to someone. Please don't hurt anyone else. It's time to talk. You have the attention you wanted. We love you very much. We want you home safe. Please call."
Jennifer Klement, a spokeswoman for the University of Wisconsin-Stout, said Helder, whose home is Pine Island, Minnesota, was an art major with a concentration in industrial design. The university, which is west of Eau Claire, had no record of disciplinary problems involving Helder.