Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey said Monday that he believes bottle bombs found in the East Fork area and in Elkhorn Village within the last few weeks are connected and possibly built by the same person or persons. The main reason he cited is a similarity in design.
“They’re all very similar, but ours was a little different,” Ramsey said. “But there seems to be a lot of consistency with the materials in all six of them.”
Of the six bombs, one investigated by the Sheriff’s Office was found in a mailbox in the East Fork drainage north of Hailey on April 24. The other five, investigated by Sun Valley police, were found last week in the Elkhorn Village area of Sun Valley.
All six bombs were chemical pressure devices, made by sealing aluminum foil, water and chemical drain cleaner in a plastic container. A chemical reaction between the ingredients causes pressure to increase until the bottle explodes, spewing boiling liquid from the chemical reaction. All six of the bombs contained metal objects that police described as shrapnel, making them potentially lethal if someone were close enough to an explosion.
“Because of the similarity in all of the devices, I believe they’re linked,” the sheriff said.
Ramsey said the difference in the East Fork bomb was that it was three separate containers held together with duct tape. When police arrived at the scene to investigate, one of the containers had ineffectively detonated but the other two had not.
“The one went off prematurely, but the others were swelling and had to be neutralized before we could touch them,” Ramsey said.
A bomb squad from the Twin Falls Police Department arrived at the scene a few hours after the bomb was found and rendered the device harmless.
Of the five bombs found in Elkhorn Village, four had already exploded and one appeared to have malfunctioned.
Interim Sun Valley Police Chief Walt Femling said Monday that police there remain on high alert, continuing to investigate and continuing to interview village residents to find out if anyone has seen anything suspicious.
Femling declined to speculate on a motive for the bombs.
“We can always theorize what’s going on, but we don’t have any facts to back it up,” Femling said.
Meanwhile, Ramsey confirmed that the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency is not going to assist with the investigation.
Instead, Sun Valley police and the Sheriff’s Office are working together on the case and are sending evidence to the Idaho State Police crime lab in Meridian.
Ramsey also declined to speculate on a motive for the bombs but said that whoever is making them “appears to be practicing to fine tune their devices.”
“If they continue to perfect their devices, it will probably only make them more dangerous,” Ramsey said. “And my fear is that if they don’t stop they’re either going to injure themselves or someone else.
“I want the lab results before I come to any conclusions,” Ramsey said. “I want to talk to the prosecutor and I want to know the motive before I come to any conclusions.”
Regarding the legality of the devices, Ramsey said he doesn’t know if building a bottle bomb without shrapnel and exploding it on private property away from people is a crime. But he said building them with shrapnel inside likely constitutes a felony.
“When you attach shrapnel to any device that’s designed to explode, you’re creating a potentially deadly weapon,” the sheriff said. “I would be really surprised if you build something that explodes and attach shrapnel to it that it doesn’t become a crime.”
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org