A man with a history of bizarre rants against the FBI was charged Thursday with placing an explosive outside a federal building in Detroit in a case that has embarrassed the government because it was taken inside by a guard and left unattended for 20 days.
Gary Mikulich was arrested 500 miles away in the Upper Peninsula and charged with trying to use an explosive to damage the McNamara Federal Building, which houses the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, immigration court and other agencies.
A tool bag holding a metal cash box was discovered Feb. 26 and brought inside the building, but it sat until a Federal Protective Service officer decided to X-ray it on March 18, saw electrical components inside and summoned the Detroit police bomb squad, which blew it up miles away at a city park, the FBI said.
"We're all a little shaken," said Catherine Gase, 49, who works for the U.S. Small Business Administration. "I can't imagine how that could have happened. I can't imagine why we weren't evacuated. . . . I was completely unaware of what was happening until the all-clear was announced."
The exploded materials included pieces of PVC pipe, a timer and black electrical tape, along with a handwritten note that read, "1. Turn Switch 2. Plug, in," agent Mark Davidson wrote in an affidavit filed in court.
The FBI is not calling it a bomb; all pieces are still being examined by experts, spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.
Mikulich, 42, lives in Kingsford in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He was arrested Thursday and is due in federal court Friday in Marquette, also in the Upper Peninsula. An attorney has not been assigned. A call to his home was not answered.
In the affidavit, the FBI said Mikulich has a history of threatening to harm agents. Iron Mountain police told the FBI they have received strange faxes from him blaming the government for his father's death.
Mikulich has complained to the police about the FBI and a so-called "card system" more than a dozen times since January, according to the affidavit. The complaints claim that the "card system" has "led to the murder of thousands of people and has attacked him."
A Feb. 11 fax read: "This card system is going berserk for some reason. They are making threates of hitting the local police, sheriff's office, and state police. They are threatening to murder me too."
Mikulich referred to himself as "President Mikulich" and the "nominated president of the United States of America," the FBI said.
Berchtold said "we don't have any idea" what the suspect meant by a "card system."
The Department of Homeland Security has suspended a contract security officer as it investigates why the bag and metal box sat inside the McNamara building for so long. The Federal Protective Service, which guards federal buildings, is also sending trainers to Detroit.
"It was put in a locked room, basically on the assumption that it was a lost-and-found issue. This violated all security protocols," said David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918, which represents Federal Protective Service officers in Detroit but not the contract guards.
The FBI said it focused on Mikulich after learning that Home Depot is the exclusive seller of the Husky tool bag. The store in Iron Mountain, near his home, sold a bag and a timer at the same time on Feb. 14, one of only nine similar sales at all U.S. locations since last fall.
Associated Press writer Corey Williams contributed to this story.