Los Angeles Times

Bombing suspect may be tied to hate group

- By Salvador Hernandez

A 44-year-old man with links to a white supremacis­t group has been arrested in connection with seven bombings in Fresno County, including a county probation department vehicle that was destroyed, authoritie­s said Wednesday.

Scott Anderson of Fresno is accused of making and using pipe bombs on six vehicles since Dec. 13, deploying explosives inside and under the vehicles on six occasions. The seventh bombing involved a mailbox, according to authoritie­s.

No one was injured in the bombings, but Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said the explosives were getting more sophistica­ted and brazen with time.

“It became apparent very quickly that the suspect, or suspects, in this case were progressin­g in skill level of making bombs, and also their frequency,” Balderrama said during a news conference.

Four people linked to Anderson have also been arrested for various charges. What, if any, connection or involvemen­t they may have had in the bombings was still under investigat­ion, Balderrama said.

After search warrants were served in three locations, authoritie­s said they seized 11 illegal firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and almost 90 grams of methamphet­amine that appeared packaged and ready for sale, along with about $50,000 in cash.

Police also encountere­d flags, signs, clothing, cups, banners and patches with white supremacis­t and Nazi parapherna­lia.

The motive behind the multiple bombings, Balderrama said, is unclear. Investigat­ors are also looking into whether the suspect’s connection to a white supremacis­t group was a factor in the attacks.

“At this point, we can’t say that the motivation was a hate crime, or whether the victims were targeted because of their race,” he said. “That’s a possibilit­y, and we haven’t solidified the connection­s to white supremacis­t groups, but is that a possibilit­y? Yes, it is.”

Anderson has been charged with three counts of exploding a destructiv­e device, one count of attempting to explode a destructiv­e device and being in possession of material to make a destructiv­e device, said Fresno County Dist. Atty. Lisa Smittcamp.

He is facing federal charges in the incidents, including using pipe bombs on vehicles involved in interstate commerce on three occasions and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Frank Rocha, 56, has been charged with being in possession of bomb making materials. Steven Burkett, 51, was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

Paul New, 55, was arrested and charged with being in possession of an explosive device, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, being a felon in possession of ammunition and altering a firearm.

Amanda Sanders, 41, was charged with being in possession of methamphet­amine for sale.

Fresno police first encountere­d a bombing of a vehicle on Dec. 13, at 5674 East Clinton Ave. The bombing damaged a pickup truck belonging to an auto-related business, said Phillip Talbert, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.

Another vehicle was targeted twice in January. Police responded to 3560 W. San Jose Ave. after a pipe bomb detonated under a car on Jan. 8, Balderrama said. During the investigat­ion, authoritie­s realized that another pipe bomb had detonated inside the car two days prior.

On Jan. 27, a bomb detonated inside a mailbox at 2763 N. Argyle Ave. just before 2 a.m. Then another bomb detonated near a vehicle in the same location.

Anderson is accused of targeting another vehicle on Feb. 19 that was leased to a home healthcare business at 377 W. Fallbrook Ave.

Two days later, authoritie­s said, Anderson targeted a probation vehicle in the parking lot of the Fresno County Probation Department at 2048 N. Fine Ave. Surveillan­ce video shows a sedan in the parking lot just after 3 a.m. stopping near the probation vehicle. Someone is seen exiting the car and tossing something underneath the vehicle.

The video shows a small fire under the vehicle, seconds before the entire vehicle is engulfed in flames.

Police had planned an operation to arrest Anderson on Feb. 23, but he unexpected­ly headed to Southern California as weather began to worsen in the state, Balderrama said.

Fresno police and federal authoritie­s notified local authoritie­s to keep tabs on Anderson as he headed to a casino in Temecula.

On Feb. 24, he was pulled over, with Rocha, by Riverside County sheriff ’s deputies on suspicion of a traffic violation and was taken into custody. Authoritie­s had to evacuate the immediate area for at least three hours as officials searched the vehicle, looking for possible explosives inside.

Balderrama said he was unclear what was found in the vehicle, which is being processed by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Although charges have been filed, Balderrama said, the investigat­ion is ongoing — including looking into whether there were any other targets.

“Frankly, they were getting better, they were becoming more frequent,” he said. “There’s nothing to lead us to believe they were going to stop. We didn’t want to wait until somebody was killed.”

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