Copyright 1995 The San Diego Union-Tribune
The San Diego Union-Tribune
April 25, 1995, Tuesday
SECTION: NEWS; Ed. 7,1,2,3,4,5,6,8; Pg. A-1
LENGTH: 938 words
HEADLINE: Mail blast kills lobbyist; FBI blames Unabomber SERIES: UNABOMBER
BYLINE: DANA WILKIE and ED MENDEL Staff Writers
A mail bomb that killed a timber industry lobbyist in an office building about three blocks from the state Capitol appears to be the work of the notorious Unabomber, the FBI said last night.
No others were injured in the blast, which occurred about 2:20 p.m. yesterday in the one-story brick building of the California Forestry Association, officials said.
The incident prompted inquiries early from Attorney General Janet Reno's office about possible links to last week's car bombing in Oklahoma City, but investigators here quickly dismissed that notion.
Local, state and federal investigators almost immediately began examining whether this incident could be linked to the Unabom case. This would be the 16th bomb set off by the so-called Unabomber across the country in 17 years, resulting in the third fatality. The Unabomber is believed to operate out of Northern California.
"Similarities observed strongly indicate that this is the work of the Unabomber," said Richard Ross, special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento office.
He said forensic evidence provided the link to the Unabomber, but he did not elaborate. Other than confirming the bomb was sent through the U.S. Postal Service, Ross offered no other connection between yesterday's blast and the Unabomber.
Authorities identified the victim as Gilbert Murray, chief lobbyist for the private organization. Murray, 47, lived in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville with his wife and three children.
Ross said a multi-agency federal task force tracking the Unabom case from its headquarters in San Francisco will lead the investigation of the Sacramento bombing.
In one attack connected to the Unabom case in 1985, a worker at a computer rental store in Sacramento was killed when he picked up what appeared to be a block of wood. In the most recent bombing, which occurred last December, a prominent advertising executive was killed when he opened a package at his home in North Caldwell, N.J.
Ross said there is a $1 million reward offered for the Unabomber, which was established in early 1994. He urged anyone with information on the Unabomber to call the federal task force at 1-800-701-2662.
"The horror of this situation is that this (bomb) was received in the mail. Unfortunately, its victim was not the intended addressee," Ross said.
He would wouldn't say who the bomb was addressed to or whether that person worked with the forestry association. Unabom cases have often had some connection with wood, whether in the name or street address of a victim.
The California Forestry Association is a nonprofit trade association representing wood products companies and commercial forest landowners. In 1993, it filed a petition seeking to remove the northern spotted owl from the federal endangered species list.
Shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday, a shoebox-sized package wrapped in brown paper arrived with the association's normal mail delivery, according to authorities. Heavier than it would appear for its size, officials said the package was given by a female clerk to Murray, who took it to an office. It exploded when he began opening it, they said.
Gov. Pete Wilson said he was "deeply angered and outraged" by the tragedy.
"A civilized society cannot tolerate these sorts of heinous actions and we will bring all forces to bear to see that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this crime are swiftly brought to justice," Wilson said.
He said that state police are moving to maximize security for state buildings.
Six people were in the forest association's downtown building when the bomb exploded, officials said. One association employee, who was five months pregnant, asked to be taken to the hospital because, authorities said, she was "pretty shaken up."
"The devastation is quite high for this one bomb," said Jan Dunbar, a division chief for the Sacramento Fire Department, who added that there appeared to be little fire damage in the 7,500-square-foot building. "It blew doors off, it blew windows out."
"There's a lot of glass on the floor, ceiling tile and sheetrock blown off the walls."
Construction workers across the street said they heard what sounded like a sonic boom.
"Then people started coming out . . . a couple were pretty shook up," said Scott Eldridge, who was working on the vacant Justice Department building under construction across the street.
Investigating the blast were officials from the Sacramento police and fire departments, FBI, U.S. Postal Service and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Sacramento Police spokesman Michael Heenan said officials from Reno's office called to inquire about any possible links to last week's Oklahoma bombing outside a federal building.
Asked before Ross' announcement whether if the Unabomber might be a suspect, Heenan said "obviously that name comes up when you talk about a bomb and a mail bomb at that."
The Unabomber's targets have included universities, professors, airline companies and computer stores.
For two years, a San Francisco-based task force of two dozen agents from the FBI, Treasury Department, and Post Office has pored over travel records, tips, interviews, lab results and case records searching for clues.
He could easily buy the electrical switches he has used to kill three people and injure 23. Instead, he painstakingly builds them himself.
One FBI agent says the Unabomber earned that name because he initially targeted university and airline officials. Investigators believe the bomber is white, male, 40ish, quiet, antisocial and very meticulous.
GRAPHIC: 2 PHOTOS; 1. Bomb probe: Police and firefighters gather outside the California Forestry Association headquarters in Sacramento yesterday after a mail bomb exploded. (Eds. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7) 2. Gilbert Murray: Was chief lobbyist for California Forestry Association. (A-15)