The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) announced in a press release Thursday that they are offering $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the Phoenix serial "flashlight" bomber.
There have now been three instances of an improvised explosive devices (IED) found hidden inside plastic, yellow hand-held flashlights in Phoenix, turning a once innocent household device into a symbol of fear in the city.
According to a report from KSAZ-TV in Phoenix, the first IED exploded on May 13 in Glendale, Ariz. – a major suburb of Phoenix – when a woman discovered one of the rigged flashlights and attempted to turn it on. It exploded, causing only minor scratches and bruises to her face and hands.
The very next day, a man was working in different part of Glendale and found a similar flashlight in a ditch. When he tried to power on the flashlight it too exploded, again causing only minor injuries.
The most recent bombing occurred at a Salvation Army distribution center in Phoenix on May 24. Two employees found a yellow, hand-held 6-volt flashlight while rifling through a donation bin. Just like the previous flashlight bombings, the IED exploded after one of them tried to turn the flashlight on. Thankfully, the two employees only suffered minor, non-life threatening injuries.
Salvation Army Capt. John Desplancke told KSAZ the blast was described as similar to a firecracker or an "M-80."
"He decided turn it on and he had it right here and he started to point it up to see if he could see the light in it -- pushed the button and it literally exploded in his hands," he said about one of the employees.
"We're confident that the 3 are related," ATF Special Agent in Charge Tom Atteberry told KSAZ. "We're concerned that there will be more devices...We're concerned that this person will keep building these until they're caught, and that's why we're aggressively following up on all leads and working it as fast as we can."
The bombings appear to be random with no targets to speak of and the flashlights are being left randomly for innocent victims to pick up.
"Our immediate concern is that of public safety, if anyone discovers a flashlight that does not belong to them or appears out of place, no matter the color or shape, DO NOT attempt touch or manipulate the flashlight in any way. We are confident the public can assist in providing additional information,” ATF said in the press release.
In another development, KSAZ reported on Thursday that a local woman found a yellow flashlight in one of her car seats after leaving the windows down and had no clue how it got there. KSAZ has the details:
This happened near 23rd Avenue and Campbell. Police say the woman came out of a home and saw the flashlight in the seat. She had no idea how it got there and told a friend.
The friend had heard all about the flashlight bombs going off and this one was yellow with a handle -- very similar to the ones exploding. They were scared and put the flashlight in the front yard. Then they called the police.
"Heroic, perhaps..without thinking it through and they threw it away from the vehicle into another area, which were able to cordon off," said Phoenix Police Lt. Chris Moore.
The bomb squad was dispatched and it was eventually determined to be just a regular flashlight, but the incident certainly shows how the bombings have impacted the feeling of safeness in the local community.