Police in Arizona have erected 22 billboards to warn residents not to pick, turn on or touch flashlights lying unattended. The warning comes after five persons in the Phoenix area were injured after three flashlights with explosives were picked up.
MSNBC reports the incidents that happened in the Phoenix area in the last month caused minor injuries and have raised fears that more serious incidents may come.
According to MSNBC, police have no idea who is responsible and they are stepping up efforts to inform the public about the risk by putting up 22 billboards in the Phoenix metro area.
According to Tom Mangan, special agent at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Phoenix, police have found it difficult to trace the perpetrators because "The nature of the bombings are so random." AZ Central reports that the three plastic, 9-volt, yellow, hand-held flashlights that have exploded so far have no particular target that can give investigator motive clues. Mangan said: "They are random and that's the struggle. If I send you a bomb or put a bomb on a car at your house, and you survive the explosion, we're going to talk to you about what's going on in your life, who do you have a beef with, who do you owe money to, who do you have a problem with. In this case, whoever is doing this is just leaving them for anyone there. He's not even coming out and targeting people who he has a problem with. Our fear is that a child could have picked it up while mom was shopping that day and blew their hand off."
ATF officials say they have ruled out connection with organized terrorist groups because the targets have been random and there have been no messages or demands. They believe the bombs were made by the same person or group of persons because the design was the same in all the cases.
According to MSNBC, an explosive was placed inside the flashlights with a battery and rigged so that when someone turns it on the electrical current triggers a blast. Mangan declined giving information on the type of explosives used. According to ABC News, investigators say the triggering device is fairly sophisticated. Tom Atteberry, special agent in charge at ATF, said: “Are we concerned that since there has been more than one? Absolutely, we’re concerned. We do not want an innocent child or victim to pick one of these flashlights up and get injured or killed, so we take this very seriously."
MSNBC reports the first flashlight bomb was picked up on May 13 in a suburb of Phoenix. The flashlight was placed behind a palm tree in a strip mall. It blew up when someone picked up the flashlight and tried to switch on the light.
The second explosion occurred the next day, about 10 miles from the place of the first incident. A landscaper found a flashlight in a ditch. The flashlight exploded when he picked up the flashlight and the flicked on the switch.
MSNBC reports the third flashlight bomb exploded on May 24 at a Salvation Army distribution center near downtown Phoenix only about 11 miles from the place of the first one. A employee of the Salvation Army accidentally set off the bomb while sorting through donations. According to John Bierd, production manager at the Salvation Army facility, the worker suffered minor injuries and about 120 people in the store were evacuated.
ABC News reports that Janelle McKee, who picked up the first flashlight bomb by the palm tree, said: “It sounded like a shotgun, big loud boom. I definitely won’t be picking anything up off the ground anytime soon.”
According to MSNBC, Salvation Army stopped accepting donations of flashlights after that incident. Bierd said: "If we have a flashlight that's heavy or is not empty, then I'd call the Phoenix Police Department. No matter where it is, we do not touch it."
ABC News reports that Salvation Army's Capt. John Desplancke, said: “We often get very strange things that are donated, but we never get things that are donated with the purpose to do harm."
FBI expert Gregg McCray, said public attention may have forced the bombers to stop or they may regain confidence again if police investigation yields no clues and strike again. FBI profilers have already set to work, saying that details of the attacks suggest the bomber is either a man working alone or two men with one of them being dominant and the other a follower. According to McCray, the motives are uncertain. He said: "Typically these things are about wanting to feel superior and smarter than other people. There will be a vicarious thrill or excitement watching news coverage, and it's kind of like: 'Look what I've done.' It's a sense of empowerment that 'I made all this happen.'"
According to AZ Central, Atteberry said bombers are almost always men and they tend to be loners nursing a grudge against society or specific groups of people.
According to Managan, remnants of the bombs are being studied for fingerprints and other DNA evidence. ATF says it is trying to trace the materials used to where they were bought.
The agency is, however, concerned that when the bombings resume the culprits will be using a different type of container. ABC News reports police fear the bombers may increase the power of the explosives and that lives may be lost. Mangan said: "Anytime any individual uses a bomb, their purpose is to create fear in the community and also to inflict serious injury or death."
According to ABC News, ATF is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of the culprit or culprits. The police is asking anyone with information to call 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).
Police have received several calls reporting possible flashlight bombs that have turned out false alarms or outright hoaxes. But no further incidents have been reported since May 24 and it is uncertain whether more flashlight bombs will be planted.
Mangan told ABC News: “Our focus is not only to apprehend the person or persons responsible for these three incidents but to heighten the awareness of the public. I am certain that someone knows who is responsible for these acts of violence and we encourage them to come forward and contact us before someone is seriously hurt.”
AZ Central reports this is not the first time police have investigated incidents of flashlight explosives. In 1998, a flashlight exploded when a 21-year-old woman picked up a flashlight device in a Virginia parking lot and turned it on.The woman suffered serious injuries. In 2003, a flashlight explosive destroyed a mailbox in Anchorage, Alaska, but no one was injured. A third incident was reported in 2010.