A 44-year-old man associated with a white supremacist group has been arrested in connection with seven bombings in Fresno County, including a county probation officer vehicle that was vandalized, authorities said Wednesday.
Scott Anderson of Fresno is believed to have made and used pipe bombs on six vehicles since Dec. 13, deploying explosives inside and under the vehicles on six separate occasions. According to the authorities, a mailbox was involved in the seventh bombing.
No one was injured in the bombings, but Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said the explosives used became more sophisticated and brutal with time.
“It became clear very quickly that the suspect, or suspects, in this case were making advances in bomb making, and also in their frequency,” Balderrama said at a news conference.
Four people associated with Anderson have also been arrested on various charges. What, if any, connection or involvement they may have had in the bombings is still under investigation, Balderrama said.
A probation vehicle was vandalized on Feb. 21 after 44-year-old Scott Anderson allegedly ignited a pipe bomb in the parking lot of the Fresno County Probation Department a little after 3 a.m. on Feb. 21.
Authorities said they seized 11 illegal firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and nearly 90 grams of methamphetamine that appeared packaged and ready for sale, along with about $50,000 in cash after issuing search warrants at three different locations.
Police also found white supremacist white supremacist flags, signs, clothing, cups, banners, and Nazi paraphernalia.
The motive behind the multiple bombings, Balderrama said, is still unclear. Investigators are also looking into whether the suspect’s connection to a white supremacist group was a factor in the attacks.
“At this point, we can’t say the motivation was a hate crime, or that the victims were targeted because of their race,” he said. “That’s a possibility, and we haven’t cemented ties with white supremacist groups, but is that a possibility? Yes it is.”
Anderson has been charged with three counts of detonating a destructive device, one attempting to detonate a destructive device and possession of material to make a destructive device, Fresno County Dist said. Attention. Lisa Smith Camp.
Anderson also faces federal charges for the incidents, including three counts of using pipe bombs on vehicles involved in interstate commerce and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Frank Rocha, 56, has been charged with possession of bomb-making equipment. Steven Burkett, 51, was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and a felony in possession of ammunition.
Paul New, 55, was arrested and charged with possession of an explosive device, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, being a felon in possession of ammunition and altering a firearm.
Amanda Sanders, 41, was charged with possession of methamphetamine for sale.
Fresno police first encountered a vehicle bombing at 5674 East Clinton Ave on December 13. The bombing damaged a pickup truck belonging to an auto company, said Phillip Talbert, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.
Another vehicle was attacked twice in January. Police responded to 3560 W. San Jose Ave. after a pipe bomb exploded under a car on Jan. 8, Balderrama said. During the investigation, authorities realized that another pipe bomb had exploded in the car two days earlier.
On January 27, a bomb exploded in a mailbox at 2763 North Argyle just before 2 a.m. Minutes later, another bomb exploded near a vehicle in the same location.
Anderson is accused of assaulting another vehicle leased to a home care company at 377 West Fallbrook Ave on Feb. 19.
Two days later, authorities said, Anderson targeted a probation vehicle in the Fresno County Probation Department parking lot at 2048 North Fine Ave. Surveillance video shows a sedan in the parking lot pulling up to the probation vehicle just after 3 a.m. Someone is seen getting out of the car and throwing something under the vehicle.
The video shows a small fire under the vehicle seconds before the entire vehicle goes up in flames.
“You can see it was a complete loss of the vehicle,” Balderrama said. “It’s completely burned.”
Police first planned an operation to arrest Anderson on Feb. 23, but he unexpectedly headed to Southern California as the state’s weather began to deteriorate, Balderrama said.
Fresno police and federal authorities instead notified local authorities to keep an eye on Anderson as he made his way to a Temecula casino.
On February 24, he and Rocha were apprehended by Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies on suspicion of a traffic violation and were taken into custody. Authorities had to evacuate the immediate area for at least three hours while officials searched the vehicle for possible explosives inside.
Balderrama said he was still unclear what was found in the vehicle, which is still being processed by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
While charges have been filed, Balderrama said, the investigation is still ongoing — including investigating whether there were any other targets.
“Honestly, they got better, they became more common,” he said. “Nothing indicates to us that they would stop. We didn’t want to wait for someone to be killed.”