A man suspected of sending homemade explosive devices to 11 government facilities in the Washington, D.C., area has been charged in the case.
Thanh Cong Phan, 43, was arrested Monday evening at his home in Everett, Wash., by local and federal law enforcement agencies. He appeared Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Seattle, charged with one count of shipment of explosive materials. The criminal complaint alleges that he sent them through the U.S. mail on March 16 from Mill Creek, a Seattle suburb.
Phan’s next scheduled court appointment is a detention hearing Friday afternoon.
Several of the suspicious packages arrived Monday morning at government installations in and around the nation’s capital, including Ft. Lesley J. McNair, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Ft. Belvoir, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, FBI headquarters and CIA headquarters.
Each package contained what appeared to be a homemade device built from a glass vial or bottle, an explosive powder, a fuse and a small GPS unit, according to the complaint. The FBI said in a statement the packages were “potential destructive devices.”
The National Defense University, located at Ft. McNair, was evacuated after a suspicious package arrived there around 8:30 a.m. Monday, according to a statement from Army spokesman Michael Howard.
Attached to the packages were incoherent notes that resembled writings Phan had mailed in the past, authorities said.
The packages contained typewritten letters “with ramblings about neuropsychology, mind control and other subjects including terrorism,” the complaint said.
No injuries or explosions were reported. A motive for the incident has not been disclosed, though officials ruled out any connection to terrorism. The packages were recovered and taken to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va.
“It is possible that further packages were mailed to additional mail processing facilities in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” said a statement from the FBI, which is continuing its investigation with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Tuesday: "We've had nobody injured and all those packages and all the evidence is accessible and in the hands of the FBI right now.”
The suspicious packages arrived a week after Hafiz Kazi, an immigrant and longtime legal U.S. resident who lived in the Bay Area, drove a burning minivan with tanks of propane and cans of gasoline through the gates of Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif. He died in the van, and his motive remains a mystery.
The swiftness of Phan’s arrest stood in sharp contrast to the three-week hunt for a serial bomber who terrorized the Austin area for three weeks this month, killing two people and injuring five others.
The suspect in that case, Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, killed himself with an explosive device March 21 as he evaded police in a car pursuit.