Arson investigators have linked an unexploded gasoline bomb found in a fire-damaged building on the UC Santa Barbara campus to the 10-day rash of bomb threats that rocked this coastal community, officials said Saturday.
The bomb threats were made by a person or group that used the name the Rite of Spring, police said. The threats were accompanied by messages protesting U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War, according to law enforcement officials.
“We believe it was somebody on campus,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputy Louis D. Martin said in a telephone interview. “There is no indication of this being related to any foreign nationals, or anything like that,”
A fire at Cheadle Hall on Feb. 26 caused $500,000 damage and was followed by half a dozen threats warning that bombs had been placed in several other university buildings and in the downtown Santa Barbara office of a U.S. congressman.
While some of the threats proved false, the sheriff’s bomb squad last week removed three live pipe bombs from the university ROTC building, the school’s library and the office of Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ventura).
Workmen cleaning up the debris from the Cheadle Hall late Friday night discovered the incendiary device in an air duct. Investigators said the device appeared to be a duplicate of the one that they believed caused the fire.
“We have evidence linking the fire to this device, a positive link,” said Martin, who is the bomb squad supervisor. He said the device, which had a timer, may have been stashed in the air duct as a backup in case the first one failed.
The 10 days of terrorist threats started with the fire. Officials at first thought that it had been caused by an electrical short. On Feb 27, taped messages from someone identifying himself as a member of the Rite of Spring warned that pipe bombs had been left in the ROTC building and the congressman’s office.
Martin said these two bombs were actually crudely built and armed only with old-fashioned burning fuses, rather than timing devices. On Thursday and Friday, more bomb threats were made and a third pipe bomb was found in the school’s library.
In the meantime, arson investigators going through the burned-out sections of Cheadle Hall found the remains of the fire bomb that started the blaze. It will be sent, along with the second bomb, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation laboratory in Washington for analysis.
“We are . . . utilizing the best lab in the county on this one,” Martin said.