Authorities are warning Iowans to use caution when getting their mail after some two-dozen mailbox bombings statewide in recent days.
Five juveniles face state and federal felony charges after allegedly blowing up 17 mailboxes in Clay County about two weeks ago. Last week, a mailbox next door to a prominent state legislator’s home in Des Moines was demolished, and on Monday, four mailboxes were destroy by pipebombs in Benton County.
State Public Safety spokesman Jim Saunders urges Iowans to be vigilant. Saunders says: "Whether it be somebody scoping out a house for a burglary or somebody that’s got an inclination to blow up your mailbox, if you see something out of place in your neighborhood, call law enforcement and let them respond and evaluate the situation and determine what may be going on."
He says these devices are very dangerous and have the potential to critically hurt or kill someone. "There are some very serious consequences to this," he says, adding: "The case in Spencer highlights that, in that, the five juveniles that were involved in that case were charged with 17 federal felony charges and seven felony charges in state court."
Saunders says if you encounter anything in your mailbox that’s not mail, don’t touch it. "A lot of times, these devices will be made out of P-V-C pipe, or a metal plumbing-type pipe or even a liter bottle, like a soda bottle," he says. "If they encounter anything similar to that or anything they deem suspicious, their best course of action is to get away from the mailbox. Don’t even shut the door, just leave it open. Contact 911 and let the professionals come out and evaluate it."
Saunders says investigators have found -no- connection to the three recent cases.
In May of 2002, pipe bombs were set off in rural mailboxes across Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas. Four letter carriers were injured, along with two Iowa women. A suspect was arrested in that case, then 23-year-old Luke Helder, who claimed he was trying to set off bombs in order to make a giant smiley-face on the map. He was found incompetent to stand trial and placed indefinitely in a federal medical center — a prison hospital — in Rochester, Minnesota.