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CNN BREAKING NEWS

FBI, Postal Service Reveal Pipe Bombing Suspect

Aired May 7, 2002 - 14:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JAMES BOGNER, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: The individual that we are seeking is Luke Helder. He's a 21-year-old white male from Minnesota. He is described as 5'9" tall, 150 pounds. He has brown hair and green eyes. He has been described as an intelligent young man with strong family ties.

He is believed to be operating a 1992 Honda four-door sedan, either black or dark gray in color. It bears Minnesota license plate -- and I'd like to make this correction, because I know that there have been media reports about this license plate. The reports that I have seen are incorrect. And the license plate is EZL 873.

QUESTION: Blue or light gray?

BOGNER: This is black or dark gray in color. A 1992 Honda four- door.

We are encouraged that there have been no recent injuries in the series of pipe bombs that have been left in mailboxes throughout Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas.

We encourage, as a public safety message here, Luke Helder to make contact with us. We do not want to see him harmed or any public harmed. That's why this is a public safety message.

The investigation is ongoing. We wanted to make sure yesterday that we had published a tip number; this was 866-847-2324. We encourage that number be used to contact us. Citizens who may have spotted this individual can also contact us or anyone else supplying information to the joint terrorism task force in this matter.

Again, this is being presented to you in the interest of public safety to ensure that no additional citizens are harmed nor is Mr. Helder harmed.

I have a picture here of the individual that we are seeking to question in this matter, and we're hoping for a very safe outcome in this situation.

What I would like to do now is -- a postal inspector, I think, has a couple of comments.

RICK BOWDREN, U.S. POSTAL INSPECTOR IN CHARGE: Thank you, Jim.

The Postal Service is concerned about the safety of our employees and the public. As Jim said, we're very encouraged by the recent days in which -- even though devices have been placed, they are not meant to harm anyone. We certainly see this as a very positive sign. And together with Jim, we would like to encourage Luke to come forward.

QUESTION: Can you talk about how you came about this information? Was it someone tipped you off, obviously, with a picture and the indication that he's an intelligent young man?

BOGNER: The investigation is being conducted by the joint terrorism task force as I mentioned, that that's composed of the representatives here, the Postal Inspection Service, APF, obviously the FBI. We have state and local partners. The Nebraska State Patrol has been involved in this. A lot of federal, state, city, county agencies have been involved.

And it's a very, obviously, intense and detailed investigation, and we appreciate the information that's been provided by the public, individuals that are concerned about the safety of the public in making sure that no one else gets hurt, and the cooperation of many officers and law enforcement throughout many states in this. And that's as much as I will say on that matter.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BOGNER: That's as much as I will say. Obviously, we're seeking this individual to talk to him about these pipe bombs and about these explosions.

QUESTION: Can you flesh out a little bit more a description? You described him as intelligent, that he has strong family ties. Is there anything else that, you know, would help perhaps somebody in knowing who this person is?

BOGNER: Well, I've provided a name, so you know who he is. And anyone -- provided you a picture. You have his vehicle description. And that's the kind of information that law enforcement and the public needs to locate him.

QUESTION: Is he a suspect, sir?

BOGNER: OK. And that's what we want to talk to him about, OK?

QUESTION: Is it his car, that you mentioned, because of the confusion over the license plate, there have been other people who have identified by the previous license plate as, perhaps, involved. Do you know if this car that you've identified belongs to him or who it belongs to?

BOGNER: Yes. My understanding is it belongs to him. And I don't know of anyone in law enforcement that has put out any information about a different license plate or different vehicle. I know that there have been reports of that, but I'm not aware that any one in law enforcement has put that out, OK? QUESTION: Is he a college student?

BOGNER: Yes. My understanding is he's a college student, has been attending college.

QUESTION: Is he the only suspect that you have at this time?

BOGNER: He certainly is an individual that we're looking for in this matter, but we continue to encourage the public to call us with any information they have about this matter, OK?

And I realize that you have a lot of questions about this and I understand this, but the investigation continues. And at this stage we need to talk to Luke Helder, and we need to try to resolve this aspect of this investigation, all right?

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea for a general feel? Do you think he's in Texas?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have photos to distribute.

QUESTION: Can you describe more...

BOGNER: I think that if you look at -- if you're asking me where he may be located, I think if you look at the devices that we have discovered and that have been discovered by law enforcement, certainly the path has traveled from Illinois to Iowa to Nebraska to Colorado to Texas, and so probably, we think, he may be located in that part of the country.

We will -- if there are other developments, I will let you know. And we will keep you advised as best we can on this.

QUESTION: Does he have a gun? Is he armed? Do you know? Is he dangerous?

BOGNER: We think for public safety concern that...

QUESTION: Do you think he has a gun with him, though? A weapon...

BOGNER: I did not say that. Don't put that in my mouth. I did not say those words on it. And I have no indication that he has a gun. Thank you.

HEMMER: All right. We learned a little more information about the suspect right now. Luke Helder, 21 years old now, we are told. But an intelligent man, described to be a person who has strong family ties, a college student apparently attending a school at this time, driving a Honda Accord somewhere in the Texas vicinity, it would appear, based on the reports there from investigators.

This trail began in Illinois, went to Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas. The latest one in Amarillo, Texas. And Kelli Arena tracking all of this. Kelli, we learn a little bit more each time these officials open their mouths. And again today, we have learned just a bit more about the man, Luke Helder, who clearly they want to talk to at this point.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Bill, and somewhat shocking. We heard the words intelligent. We heard the words strong family ties. We heard the words college student. And I can tell you that we spoke with certain profilers earlier today who said that they thought that judging by the letter that was written and accompanied all of the bomb that were placed in mail boxes, they thought that this person was a loner, that this person perhaps was anti-social. So that goes against what some of those profilers said.

Now, we did not speak of course to the official profilers working on the case. We spoke to people who have done profiling in the past. But that is somewhat shocking to hear. And as you look at this young man, he looks clean cut. He looks friendly. This is not the image that one would have. Of course, minds raced back to the Unabomber when we first heard about this case. And we remember very well the images that are left in our minds regarding that case. This is quite contrary.

Now again, we have to underscore what was said in that press conference, what we've been saying all along. Helder has not been charged with anything. He is wanted for questioning. We are told by the FBI that this investigation continues and will continue. And they are urging him to turn himself in so that he or anyone else doesn't get hurt, Bill.

HEMMER: And also, Kelly, some questions about safety. Certainly that is a concern right now. What are officials saying not just to people checking their mailbox, but also postal employees who are working this as well?

ARENA: What they have been saying since Friday is that if you see an item in your mailbox that is cylindrical, that has wires coming out of it, that is attached to a battery, that is packaged in plastic accompanied by a note or something that just looks suspicious, don't touch it. Don't touch the mailbox. Contact local law enforcement and they will come and deal with it.

There have been several bombs that have detonated, as you know. Many of them have not because people have been made aware and are cautious. But that is the guidance that we are receiving. And they also said that if you see Helder or know of his whereabouts to inform local authorities. The FBI would not say that he was carrying a gun, but on their all points bulletin, did say people should assume that he could be armed and dangerous. So not to confront him either, but to contact local law enforcement though.

HEMMER: And quickly, Kelli, three-quarter inch steel pipes, battery attached, the description we are given, is that right?

ARENA: That's right. They're about six inches long, three- quarter inches wide, wires coming out of the back attached to 9-volt battery. That is what they look like, and they have been wrapped in plastic accompanied with this note that has been circulating.

HEMMER: Kelli, thanks. Kelli Arena in D.C. tracking this story. The number to call if you do have information, 866-847-2324, the number given out in Omaha.

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