From Bombs to Drugs

Sandberg outside his home (courtesy of ABC-7 News Denver)

One of the worst things about violence in America is that when one terrible incident occurs, it is normally followed by a host of other troubling incidents around the country.

Speaking biblically, I guess you could say that “violence begets more violence.” And copycat criminals tend to come out of the woodwork, too.

This story doesn’t involve a copycat of the killers in Colorado or Connecticut, but it is no less disturbing. About the only similarity is that this incident also occurred in Colorado, a state plagued by high-profile violence ever since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999.

On Thursday morning, police in Colorado arrested 35-year-old Richard Sandberg for attempting to trade explosive devices for cocaine with an undercover ATF agent. He is now being held without bond pending a detention hearing next week.

More than a week ago, Denver police received a tip from a reliable informant who had been in Sandberg’s suburban home and reported seeing numerous firearms and explosives, including military-grade hand grenades. The police informed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who immediately began an undercover sting operation to investigate the matter.

An undercover agent contacted Sandberg, who claimed to be a former Marine with a special operations unit, and inquired about the trade. Sandberg told him that he could provide M67 grenades for $300 each, as well as homemade “cricket” explosives he created with materials from a local hardware store.

On Tuesday evening, the undercover agent met Sandberg at his home and learned quite a bit more about the would-be terrorist. In conversation, Sandberg expressed contempt for President Obama and the American government. He claimed to be a former demolitions expert who served in Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia, as well. Whether or not this is true, I have no idea.

During the visit, Sandberg also showed his prospective buyer a thick, steel door with gun turrets cut out of it. He told the agent he had thousands of rounds of ammunition and would use them if the authorities ever came calling.

By the end of the visit, the agent had purchased two pipe bombs and one of the cricket explosives. And before he left the house, Sandberg claimed he could obtain C4 explosives and blasting caps if the agent so desired.

A test of the materials obtained from Sandberg revealed that they were indeed highly explosive and could be classified as “destructive devices” under federal law. Two days after the visit, authorities caught up with Sandberg as he was heading to work and took him into custody.

ht explosives in jeff co house tk 130124 wblog Federal Agents Bust Colorado Man in Alleged Bombs for Drugs Sting

Even “normal” suburban America isn’t safe any more (courtesy of Ryan Budnick/KMGH)

Despite having a “Fire Obama” sign in his window and sporting a Marine flag in his yard, Sandberg seemed to most of his neighbors like a normal guy. Sure, he could be heard working metal late at night, but most thought this was some kind of hobby and never felt threatened by it. At least not until now.

“It’s so scary,” neighbor Michelle Chalupa told CNN earlier. “I’m thankful that whatever operation found [the bombs] before someone was hurt.”

Amen to that.

Unfortunately, authorities don’t always catch criminals in time and we end up with elementary school shootings, movie theater massacres and a host of other violent events. Sure, it’s great when future violence can be prevented, but allowing even one madman to slip through the cracks is enough to result in even more tragedy and death.

Of course, what bothers me the most is something I have expressed here before: for every homicidal maniac we detect and arrest, there is likely another we don’t even know about. And as much as I hate to say it, plotting for the next tragic and violent event may already be underway.

Posted on January 26, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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