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Pipe bomb planter still unidentified one year after Capitol riot

DC RNC DNC pipe bomb poster from FBI
Images from FBI poster seeking information on pipe bombs planted in Washington, D.C. FBI

Pipe bomb planter still unidentified one year after Capitol riot

January 06, 06:43 AM January 06, 06:43 AM

One year after the Capitol riot, the person who planted pipe bombs the night before outside both the Republican and Democratic national committee headquarters in the nation’s capital remains unknown and at large.

Attorney General Merrick Garland gave a speech on the eve of the riot’s one year anniversary where he described the more than 725 arrests the Justice Department has made thus far — with the attempted pipe bomber going conspicuously unmentioned.

One pipe bomb was placed in an alley behind the RNC, while the other was placed next to a park bench near the DNC.

Steven D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a recent interview that the pipe bombs were “viable devices that could have gone off and exploded, causing a lot of serious injury or death.” He contended that it “has always been a priority since day one to find this individual.”

D’Antuono said the FBI has done over 900 interviews regarding the pipe bombs and has collected 39,000 video files and 400 tips related to the suspect’s identity.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the House in June, saying that “we are aggressively investigating” the pipe bomb saga. When asked if he would commit to releasing all of the video that the bureau has on the attempted pipe bomber, Wray declined to do so, saying, “I’m very careful about making sure that we protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

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Video released by the FBI shows the suspect wearing a gray hoodie, a face mask, gloves, and black and light gray Nike Air Max Speed Turf shoes with a yellow logo, and carrying a bag as he or she strolled through the Capitol Hill neighborhood between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 5. At one point, the suspect is seen on South Capitol Street looking around as a man walking a dog passes, and at another moment, the suspect is seen sitting down at a bench outside the DNC headquarters and rifling through a bag before getting back up. Additional footage shows the suspect walking in front of the Capitol Hill Club, a private venue frequented by Republicans, and in an alley between the club and the RNC headquarters.

D’Antuono speculated that the mask-wearing suspect was likely able to escape suspicion that night due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the bureau does not even know if the suspect is male or female.

The FBI said it released the footage in the hopes that someone can identify the person’s gait, body language, or mannerisms. The suspect is seen carrying the bag in his or her right hand in each of the clips. The FBI offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the identification or arrest of the pipe bomb suspect in early January, and that reward was increased to $75,000 then to $100,000 by the end of that month. The bureau continued posting public pleas on Twitter in March, April, May, and September seeking information on the unknown suspect.

The FBI said that the components of the devices include one-inch by eight-inch threaded, galvanized pipes, a kitchen timer, and homemade black powder. A ”Quick Look Report” by the National Explosives Task Force said the pipe bombs contained “a powdery substance consistent with the oxidizer potassium nitrate, the fuel sulfur, and a fuel consistent with charcoal.”

A bipartisan Senate report released in June said that the Capitol Police received word of a pipe bomb at the RNC headquarters around 12:45 p.m. on Jan. 6 and that law enforcement officials discovered a similar pipe bomb at the DNC headquarters just after 1:00 p.m.

It has been widely speculated that the pipe bombs were planted in connection with the Capitol riot the next day, but that has not been proven.

Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund testified, “We were dealing with two pipe bombs that were specifically set right off the edge of our perimeter to, what I suspect, draw resources away … I think there was a significant coordination with this attack.” Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton told the House, “Invariably, when there’s an incident, police officers swarm. … If those pipe bombs were intended to be a diversion, it worked.”

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Sund also contended that the initial evacuation of two congressional buildings on Jan. 6 was not prompted by the storming of the Capitol complex but rather because of the discovery of the two pipe bombs.

Karlin Younger said she discovered the bomb near the RNC headquarters while she was taking out her laundry, and she said police arrived almost immediately, evacuating the block.

Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said in March that the pipe bombs were real weapons, saying, “It appears they weren’t armed properly … But they were not hoax devices.”

The FBI released numerous photos and videos of the pipe bomb planter and also released a September video of a map depicting an approximate route the suspect took that night. The FBI said at the time that “reviews of the suspect’s behavior in video footage and interviews with residents in the Capitol Hill neighborhood have led the FBI to believe the suspect is not from the area.”

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