A man suspected of leaving a backpack bomb outside a police station in a small Colorado mountain town tried several times to remotely detonate the homemade device using a cellphone but failed, according to court documents released Monday.
David Michael Ansberry, 64, of San Rafael, California, was arrested this weekend in Chicago after surveillance video captured him at the stores where he bought the cellphones that he expected to trigger the explosive in the town of Nederland, investigators said.
He was easily recognizable because he is 3 feet 6 inches tall and 100 pounds and wore a ponytail, a ball cap and using crutches. The Nederland police chief told investigators he spotted a man matching Ansberry's description leaving a hotel as it was being evacuated during the Oct. 11 bomb scare.
Ansberry was charged with a federal explosives count. U.S. Justice Department counterterrorism prosecutors are handling the case. Court documents don't indicate a motive.
No attorney for Ansberry was listed in court records, and his relatives did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
The bomb scare rattled the mountain-ringed town of 1,500 people southwest of Boulder. Residents said they felt safer after the arrest but were still baffled by Ansberry's presence in their community, an artists' refuge which has long thrived on its embrace of outsiders.
Ansberry said he was in town to visit an old friend who was a professor but did not elaborate, said J.P. Farrell, a front desk agent at The Boulder Creek Lodge. Ansberry stayed at the hotel, which is within sight of the police station, for about two weeks, then left and returned, Farrell told The Associated Press, describing him as a pleasant guest.
Ansberry was staying there the day of the bombing, authorities said.
A detective found the backpack and brought it into the police station, believing it was lost property. After opening the bag, the detective discovered a cellular device with protruding wires that connected to a battery and a suspicious powder, the newly released documents say.
Robots searched the explosive, and it was eventually detonated in the parking lot of the town's main retail complex, a strip mall that houses the five-officer police department.
Authorities have not said what kind of destruction the bomb might have caused.
"The community knows there has been an arrest, and that goes to calming people's fears,'' said Alisha Reis, administrator for the town best known for its love of legal marijuana and its annual celebration of a frozen corpse that draws tens of thousands of revelers. ``But folks are still confused as to why it occurred. Who is this person? And why would he have done it here?''
Residents have recently complained about homeless campers and wanderers who live off the land. Two people camping near an area popular with transients attracted to the laid-back community were charged this summer with accidentally sparking a fire that destroyed eight homes.
But if there is anti-police sentiment, longtime residents said it's hard to immediately spot.