Man killed by bomb at W. Central shopping center - Albuquerque Journal

Man killed by bomb at W. Central shopping center

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

A powerful, improvised bomb exploded behind a busy shopping center on West Central on Monday afternoon, killing the person police say caused it and sparking evacuations of the area.

“There is no perceived threat to anybody else,” Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier said in a news conference from the scene. “There is no connection to any terrorist act or any activity that we would need to protect the public from.”

The explosion, which Geier said had a radius of about 80 yards, shook buildings and houses near Central and Coors and could be heard almost two miles away. Employees and customers were told to shelter in place and then were evacuated as investigators with the Albuquerque Police Department, Albuquerque Fire Rescue, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives combed through the scene.

Shortly before 1 p.m., APD officers patrolling the area and AFR personnel shopping at the Smith’s grocery store at 111 Coors NW heard and felt the explosion, and sprang into action. They ran behind the shopping center to find a person had been killed.

“Our initial concern was, was this a gas leak or natural causes, but that was ruled out pretty quickly,” Geier said. “There were people in the area that did witness the explosion. So we started putting together the pieces right from the onset.”

He said they have tentatively identified the man who was killed, but had not yet notified family members of his death Monday evening. It is unclear what the motive was or if he had any connections to the shopping center.

Investigators, with help from the FBI, are still determining what the explosive device was made from. Geier said they believe it was “on or around” the person who was killed.

He said the explosion destroyed a cement wall and dented a dumpster behind the shopping center. There aren’t any houses in the area, and an expanse of parking lot and a vacant field separate it from the next closest business.

Witnesses reported seeing several different people who looked suspicious running away, but police determined no one else was involved.

Employees at the shopping center and other onlookers gathered in the parking lot throughout the afternoon. Many reported hearing the explosion.

Ana Nieves, a secretary at Jacobo’s auto sales shop across the street, said their whole building shook.

“The sound was horrifying,” she said. “It sounded like thunder when it makes the house shake. The kind that makes you jump when it hits.”

Nieves said she and the other employees went outside to look around and then heard police begin to arrive.

Geier said police occasionally get calls about bomb threats and sometimes find devices that people have made into explosives, but it’s rare to see one with this capacity.

“Tonight, we’ll look at the investigative aspect regarding the individual himself, and how this all came to fruition today,” he said.

Mayor Tim Keller expressed gratitude that no one else was injured by the blast.

“We are grateful that no one else was hurt and that our partners were able to jump in promptly and deal with the situation,” he said. “We also want to thank all the businesses and customers who were cooperative during this investigation.”

APD: Explosion behind shopping center an ‘apparent suicide’

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