Suspected Colorado mall bomber charged with arson

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 01, 2011 6:33 PM
Suspected Colorado mall bomber charged with arson

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A man suspected of planting four homemade bombs at a suburban Denver mall and hotel last weekend has been charged with arson, federal authorities said on Friday.

David Joseph Lawless, 30, confessed to assembling the explosives from bomb-making recipes he found on the Internet, according to an FBI arrest warrant affidavit.

Three small bombs inside a Borders bookstore fizzled, and the explosion of a fourth device outside at a nearby hotel set some shrubs on fire. Little damage was done to either building, and no one was hurt.

Federal prosecutors charged Lawless by criminal complaint with one count of arson of a building affecting interstate commerce, and one count of use of a destructive device during a crime of violence.

Lawless, who is in state custody on suspicion of drunken driving and assaulting a police officer when he was arrested, faces a maximum life sentence and $500,000 in fines if convicted in the federal arson case.

Authorities said they had no evidence the attempted bombings were acts of domestic or international terrorism, but the latest court filings indicated no motive.

Lawless is accused of planting three small bombs, made from plastic bottles filled with combustible powder and taped to propane gas canisters, at a Borders bookstore inside the Colorado Mills Mall. The FBI said the devices "partially functioned," with detonation of the powder failing to set off the propane, before dawn on June 25.

Hours later, guests at a Marriott Hotel about a mile away reported an explosion that ignited shrubbery outside their hotel rooms. Investigators subsequently traced the hotel blast to a fourth bomb planted by Lawless, the FBI said.

Authorities said they were led to the suspect by surveillance camera images of him and his vehicle in the area at the time of the crimes.

He was arrested by Colorado state police in connection with a traffic accident in an adjoining county about 10 hours after the mall bombing incidents.

State troopers said Lawless appeared intoxicated when they arrived on the scene, then tried to flee on foot and assaulted officers with scissors as they apprehended him.

In 2005, Lawless pleaded guilty to detonating a dry-ice bomb at a Denver-area strip club and was sentenced to two years on probation, court documents showed.

Authorities would not say when Lawless would be transferred to federal custody.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Jerry Norton)