Investigators with the Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) will seek criminal charges against a Florida man who was detained Wednesday after explosive material was found in his pickup truck, which was parked near the state Capitol in Topeka.
The suspect, detained in a publicly accessible tunnel on the Capitol campus, was released following questioning by KHP’s Capitol Police officers and detectives with the Topeka Police Department, KHP spokesman Patrick Saleh said today. Because the suspect wasn’t booked into jail, his name isn’t yet public record and can’t be released, Saleh said.
Highway Patrol investigators will meet Friday or Monday with Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor to review evidence retrieved from the man’s truck and items found when a search warrant was served at a Topeka home where he was living, Saleh told Hatewatch. “We’re hoping to have it done by the end of the week, but it may be Monday before our investigators meet with the district attorney,” Saleh said.
He wouldn’t comment on reports that the explosive material found in the suspect’s truck was quarter-sticks of dynamite. “I’d be speculating,” Saleh said. “I don’t know for sure.”
However, when investigators went to the Topeka residence where the man had been living, they found and seized other items, the Capitol Police spokesman said. “Items that would cause concern were seized,’’ he said.
The man was detained by police on the same day the Kansas Legislature was conducting hearings on a proposed, controversial anti-immigrant law – similar to nativist laws already passed in Alabama and Arizona. Such laws have become lightning rods for anti-immigration extremists.
Investigators determined the man who was detained has lived in Florida, but for “some time” has been in Kansas, Saleh said. He wouldn’t say if investigators have developed any links between the suspect and anti-immigrant groups. “It’s my agency’s hope that he will be charged after the district attorney reviews this case,’’ Saleh said.
A civil rights group representing immigrants released a statement Thursday suggesting there it likely was no coincidence that explosive material was found on a day that groups would be protesting hearings at the Topeka Capitol on anti-immigration laws.
The incident in Topeka “is clearly a reflection of the anti-immigrant syndrome eating away at society. Kansas is once again on the spotlight; this gives us an opportunity to take a different approach to this national problem,” Sulma Arias, executive director Sunflower Community Action, said in a statement given to Hatewatch.
“As an organization which represents immigrants, we understand that there is a problem with immigration in this country, but we, as a community, condemn acts of violence and will not resort to them in order to win dignity,” Arias said. “We, as most Kansans, want a more reasonable and rational discussion that leads to real solutions.”
The incident drew national media attention.
In Topeka, there appeared to be an initial jurisdictional questions over whether the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Topeka Police Department or the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would assume lead jurisdiction.
The ATF bowed out after it was determined the explosive material wasn’t assembled into a device that would easily allow federal jurisdiction. “This is pretty much a state matter at this point,” ATF spokeswoman Trista Frederick in Kansas City, Mo., told Hatewatch.