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Jan 7, 2015 4:35 PM

FBI looks for motive in explosion near Colorado NAACP office

The Associated Press

DENVER (AP) The FBI is investigating the possibility that a homemade explosive set off near a Colorado NAACP office was a case of domestic terrorism.

Investigators also are considering many other possible motives and have not determined whether the nation's oldest civil rights organization was targeted, Denver FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders said Wednesday.

The blast happened at about 11 a.m. Tuesday outside a barbershop that shares a building with the NAACP's Colorado Springs chapter, about an hour south of Denver. There were no injuries and only minor damage.

While local chapter members said they were waiting for more information from law enforcement before drawing any conclusions, speculation washed across social media about whether the explosion was a hate crime. Sanders said investigators have not ruled out any possibilities.

"We're exploring any potential motive, and domestic terrorism is certainly one among many possibilities," she said.

An improvised explosive device was detonated against the low-slung building, which sits in a mostly residential neighborhood, but a gasoline canister placed next to the device failed to ignite. Members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force are investigating because of the explosion's proximity to the NAACP office, Sanders said.

Investigators were still looking for a balding white man in his 40s who might be driving a dirty pickup truck. His identity was still under investigation.

"This is someone we'd like to speak to," Sanders said.

Both the chapter office and the barbershop reopened Wednesday with little police presence.

"We're standing vigilant and are trying not to let this disrupt anything," NAACP volunteer Harry Leroy said. Investigators were briefing the chapter's president, Henry Allen Jr., and he wasn't immediately available for comment.

Leroy said it was too soon to say whether the office was targeted.

Gene Southerland owns Mr. G's Hair Design Studios next door and was cutting a client's hair there when the explosion occurred. The blast was strong enough to knock items off the walls, but the quick police response was comforting, he said.

Southerland said the FBI had given him no information on its early findings. But he said he didn't believe the barbershop or its predominantly black clientele was targeted.

Leroy said he believed there were surveillance cameras behind the building, but he did not know whether they captured anything of value.

Those who heard the blast, including Southerland, said it sounded like a single, loud "boom."

Investigators Tuesday were examining a red gasoline canister with a yellow nozzle. They also checked pieces of duct tape and metal lying 40 to 50 feet from the explosion site.


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