Investigators in California are looking into links between five suspects arrested after a series of pipe bombings, one of which destroyed a county probation car, and white supremacist groups after police uncovered apparent Nazi flags in the case.
Police discovered Nazi paraphernalia in a series of searches on Friday, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said. He said it was unclear how the individuals arrested were connected to hate groups and could not say whether the victims were targeted because of their race.
“This looks to be Nazi paraphernalia, possibly racist paraphernalia,” the chief said in a news conference on Wednesday. “This is still very early on in the investigation. We have a lot of evidence and information to look through. A lot of the pieces of evidence are still being processed.”
Police believe one of the men arrested is responsible for seven pipe bomb cases in the Fresno area since December. The bombs have gradually become more frequent, the chief said. The most recent bombing destroyed a county probation car on Feb. 21. No one was hurt in the incidents.
Detectives identified Scott Anderson, 44, as a prime suspect in two cases in January.
And he and a second suspect, Frank Rocha, 56, were arrested during a traffic stop in Riverside County in Southern California on Feb. 24. The search of their vehicle took three hours and required an evacuation of the area, the chief said.
During a search of three locations, police seized 11 firearms, including rifles and shotguns, several hundred rounds of ammunition, nearly 90 grams of methamphetamine packaged for sale and about $50,000 in cash.
Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint charging Anderson for three pipe bombings in the Fresno area and for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The complaint alleges that on Dec. 13, Anderson used an explosive device to damage a pickup truck belonging to an auto business. It also alleges that on Jan. 27, Anderson used an explosive device to damage a car belonging to a second auto-related business.
The complaint also alleges that on Feb. 19, Anderson used an explosive device to damage a car leased to a home healthcare business.
The complaint alleges that Anderson possessed a 45-caliber pistol manufactured outside California at his home in Fresno.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said her office charged Anderson with three counts of exploding a destructive device and one count of an attempt. He was also charged with one count of arson. She said he would also be charged with possession of material to make a destructive device and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also faces charges of possession of an assault weapon and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Steven Burkett, 51, is charged with eight counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Paul New, 55, has been charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a felon in possession of ammunition and one count of possession of material to make a destructive device.
Amanda Sanders, 41, faces charges of possession of methamphetamine for sale.
Balderrama said the fact that they targeted a law enforcement vehicle was of great concern.
“If someone’s that bold, then, you know, what else could they possibly do?”
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