Rash of Bomb Cases Tied to Radical-Right Views

Illegal Explosives

Illegal bombs, bullets and guns were seized from men young and old in recent months. In each of the cases, which together represented an unusual burst of such activity, there was evidence that those charged held antigovernment, survivalist or racist views. The accused ranged from their late teens to their 60s.

Mark Campano of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, pleaded not guilty in federal court in January to possession of destructive devices not registered with the federal government. They included about three dozen pipe bombs and bomb components, 17 rifles and pistols, including a revolver equipped with a homemade silencer, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Authorities learned of the arsenal after Campano accidentally detonated one of the pipe bombs in his apartment, causing him to lose parts of two fingers.

Campano’s 77-year-old mother said her son was simply indulging in a hobby. But a one-time neighbor said the former anesthesiologist continually tried to get her and another neighbor to watch and listen to antigovernment video and audiotapes. In denying Campano’s request for bail, a federal judge said she could not “imagine legal, non-dangerous uses for such an arsenal.” 

A Missouri jury needed only nine minutes in January to convict Robert Joos Jr. of two felony weapons and explosives charges. Federal agents found 15 firearms, more than 19,000 ammunition rounds and bomb-making parts such as fuses and blasting caps at Joos’ rural home. The agents acted after white supremacist twins Dennis and Daniel Mahon (who separately face trial for allegedly injuring an Arizona official with a mail bomb) reportedly told undercover informants that Joos’ 200-acre property was used as a training facility for racist radicals.  

Missouri police in January seized more than 100 guns and 300,000 rounds of ammunition from a man who they said considered himself to be an “extreme survivalist” and charged him with making a terrorist threat. Lowell Aughenbaugh was accused of threatening to blow up the city of Rolla’s police department and everybody in it. Police said Aughenbaugh also had books on how to successfully kill somebody and materials that could be used to make explosive devices.

Also in Missouri in January, federal agents arrested a man accused of making “improvised explosive devices.” Richard Cobley of Trenton is alleged to have shown an undercover ATF agent a hidden room in his basement where he displayed an anti-personnel bomb with BBs attached to a PVC pipe casing with electrical tape. Cobley encouraged the agent to “try it out and see if you like it” and said he had made booby traps to place in his home to stop the government coming after him, according to an affidavit.

A Lake Elsinore, Calif., man blew several fingers off on one hand while handling explosives in October, then was charged along with his mother and brother with several crimes. After Benjamin Kuzelka went to a hospital for treatment of his injuries, authorities visited the home where he lived with his brother and mother, who ran a licensed day care facility there. Police said they found ingredients for making explosives and a marijuana-growing operation in a three-car garage. A swastika was drawn on a wall inside the house, and a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook was discovered. The book includes instructions for making explosives.

Two 19-year-old West Virginia high school seniors were arrested in September and charged with plotting to bomb their school. They were arrested after other Weir High School students notified authorities of threatening text messages that reportedly were traced to one of the defendants, Mark Mentzer. A search of Mentzer’s home turned up weapons, racist writings, a map of the school and bomb-making materials.

Also in September, a father and son in Antioch, Ill., were charged with various weapons and explosives offenses. Among the items taken from their home were two anti-tank rocket launchers, two submachine guns, an assault rifle, baseball bats with spikes, knives, machetes, land mines, sticks of dynamite and bomb-making manuals.

In the bedroom of the father, Burl Thomas, police said they found a drawing of Adolf Hitler and a vest with several patches, including a swastika. Thomas told authorities he had once ridden with the Outlaws motorcycle gang. His son, John Thomas, has a criminal history that includes hate crimes and aggravated assault.

A reputed militia member who pleaded guilty to illegally selling explosives to undercover cops was sentenced in September to the 15 months he had already served in jail in Pennsylvania. Federal authorities said that Perry Landis’ rural cabin was a meeting place for militia members and that he was in the Brookville Tigers Militia. Landis’ attorney blamed his client’s drinking of one to two cases of beer a day for his actions. “I’m not against the government, and never was,” Landis said at his sentencing. “I love the United States.”

Ronald Struve of Kirkland, Wash., was sentenced to four years in prison in August after pleading guilty to several counts of possession of illegal firearms and plastic explosives. Federal agents found grenades and grenade launchers, machine guns, plastic explosives and blasting caps in storage lockers he rented in Bellevue and Spokane. Struve, who was 67 when he was sentenced, told the judge that he started collecting weapons on the black market in the 1960s, when he said he became an anticommunist. Agents said that when they arrested Struve, he told them he might use his arsenal “some day” against “the enemy.”