TODAY’S FOCUS: Suspect Unknown Despite Three Psychological Profiles
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ The explosion roared through a suburban Sacramento shopping center and left Campbell Scrutton dying in an alley, the latest victim of a mysterious bomber who has eluded authorities around the nation for nearly eight years.
The genial Scrutton, 38, owner of a computer company, was described by his neighbors as a ″man with an immaculate reputation.″ Police could find no reason why anyone would make him a target and concluded he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Around noon on Dec. 11, he casually touched a harmless-looking package outside the rear door of his store. The parcel, wrapped in paper and tied with string, contained a powerful pipe bomb that blew up, shooting shrapnel more than 400 feet.
″Oh my God 3/8 Help me 3/8″ he screamed before collapsing. He died 30 minutes later.
State, local and federal investigators had already been conducting a quiet hunt for the bomber, tracing explosions and attempts through the South, Midwest and Far West that had left 19 people injured.
Until Scrutton’s murder, the search had been conducted without publicity. But his death, the first blamed on the bomber, prompted authorities to go public, hoping the publicity would pry loose some leads.
FBI spokesman Mike McCrystal said ″every field office has been alerted, which is unusual, and it’s a very vigorous investigation.″
Police psychologists have compiled several profiles of the bomber, but they refuse to disclose details of their probe or the kind of person they are hunting, except to say the bombings are linked by the bombs’ ″fingerprints″ - the shards of debris left by the explosives.
Penn State and Northwestern universities and the University of California at Berkeley have been targets for the bomber, who seems consumed by a bizarre interest in computers, academia and aircraft.
Several explosives were mailed parcels; others were left in public places.
The bomber, who police say could be a disgruntled academician or computer worker, has not struck since Dec. 11.
Investigators say the explosives and fragments in the suburban Sacramento blast were similar to those from bombs planted at 10 other sites since May 1978.
In November 1979, one of the serial bombs blew up in a mail pouch of an American Airlines 727 bound to Washington, D.C., from Chicago, injuring 12 people who suffered smoke inhalation.
Although the plane landed safely, that bombing was potentially the most dangerous of the series of blasts. The aircraft, carrying 72 passengers, filled with smoke during approach to Dulles International Airport in Washington.
″The pilot and forward passengers said they heard a muffled explosion,″ American Airlines spokesman Lee Elsesser said in a telephone interview from his Texas headquarters. He described the explosive as ″an incendiary device that was supposed to burn rather than blast,″ and it contained an altimeter triggering device.
In June 1980, United Airlines president Percy Wood narrowly escaped death because he placed a parcel left at his Elk Grove, Ill., home on the kitchen table before opening it. The blast that followed went through the ceiling.
John Hauser was not so lucky.
On May 15, 1985, Hauser lost parts of the fingers on his right hand when a package exploded at a Berkeley classroom. Hauser, an electrical engineering graduate student, was typing at a computer terminal when he noticed the parcel and reached for it to take a look. Two years earlier, another of the bomber’s packages exploded in the same building, injuring a professor.
In all, six bombs exploded on college campuses, generally in technical or computer-related departments or classrooms, each injuring one person.
Two other bombs were defused without injury.
″There are three common threads here: computers, universities and airplanes,″ said Sacramento County Sheriff’s homicide Lt. Ray Biondi, the lead investigator. ″It’s unlike any cases we’ve had and it’s very difficult to get a handle on all that’s occurred.″
He added, ″The thing we’re trying to do now is find the common links between the bombings.″
Agents from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with U.S. Postal Service officials and local police and sheriff’s officers are probing the bombing spree.
″We have three separate pyschological profiles of the unknown suspect, but we can’t release them,″ Biondi said. ″It’s just that they are very general in most respects and if we put them out, we’d get data back on every weirdo in the United States.″