- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

RENO, Nev. A 21-year-old college student was charged yesterday in connection with the five-state string of mailbox pipe bombs after he was arrested on a wind-swept highway after a manhunt that stretched across half the country.
Luke J. Helder of Pine Island, Minn., was captured after dropping a gun out his car window, the FBI said. A bomb squad was called to check the vehicle for explosives.
Mr. Helder was stopped more than 1,500 miles from western Illinois, where some of the first bombs were found. After his license plate and car description were broadcast nationwide yesterday, a motorist on Interstate 80 spotted Mr. Helder's westbound vehicle and tipped off authorities.
Mr. Helder was pulled over after a 40-mile chase that reached 100 mph.
"The FBI contacted him on his cell phone and started negotiations with him, and asked us to back off," said Maj. Rick Bradley of the Nevada Highway Patrol. "Then he slowed down."
FBI Agent Terry Hulse said Mr. Helder telephoned his parents during the chase and was patched through to an FBI negotiator. He said Mr. Helder stayed on the phone with the FBI after pulling over and volunteered to surrender if he was not harmed. He then was taken into custody without incident.
Mr. Helder was jailed in Reno, and federal prosecutors in Iowa charged him with using an explosive to maliciously destroy property affecting interstate commerce and with using a destructive device to commit a crime of violence. The charges carry penalties of up to life in prison and fines of $250,000.
The capture came just eight hours after the FBI issued an all-points bulletin for Mr. Helder and said it wanted to question him about the 18 pipe bombs found since Friday.
At Mr. Helder's family home an hour's drive southeast of Minneapolis, his father, Cameron, read a statement earlier in the day in which he urged his son to call home.
"I really want you to know that Luke is not a dangerous person," the tearful father said. "I think he's just trying to make a statement about the way our government is run. I think Luke wants people to listen to his ideas, and not enough people are hearing him, and he thinks this may help."
Cameron Helder, a former president of the local American Legion post, 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. Luke, we love you very much. We want you home safe."
For the first time since the bombs began appearing Friday, a name and a face were identified with a case that the FBI called domestic terrorism. Six persons have been injured by the bombs, none seriously.
The University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, 60 miles east of Minneapolis, said Mr. Helder was a junior majoring in art and industrial design. He played guitar, sang in a punk-rock band called Apathy and once held a benefit concert to collect food and money for the homeless.
Mr. Helder was enrolled at Wisconsin-Stout, and FBI agents were searching Mr. Helder's apartment in a two-story building near campus.
Mr. Helder a wide receiver on his high school football team idolized grunge-rock pioneer Kurt Cobain, who committed suicide in 1994.
A Web search using Mr. Helder's name turned up a site for his punk band, which recorded an album called "Sacks of People." The online promotion said, "Luke is the guitarist and does lead vocals. He's basically written all of the songs they've played up to this point. He digs Nirvana and Cobain a great deal and that's pretty evident in, well, his life."
Two songs, "Conformity" and "Back and Black," were posted on the site. The former song has the lyrics "Sadness is painted on the faces/On the faces of everything but me."
A federal agent pointed to the song and compared it to the notes found with most of the 18 pipe bombs in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas since Friday: "To 'live' (avoid death) in this society you are forced to conform/slave away. I'm here to help you realize/understand that you will live no matter what!" The note also says: "More 'attention getters' are on the way."
The first eight bombs were found Friday in Illinois and Iowa, including six that injured four letter carriers and two customers. Eight more were found in Nebraska, and the 17th turned up in Salida, Colo., on Monday. None of those exploded.
The FBI said all 17 of those bombs came from the same source. The latest device was found Monday afternoon at a home in Amarillo, Texas, and was described as similar to the others.
The difference with the device was that it was found in a residential neighborhood and not a far-flung rural route. It was placed in a mailbox on a post in a yard behind a low chain-link fence, about 25 feet from the front door but not accessible from the street.


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