A person of interest has been arrested in the bombing of an Air Force recruiting center in Bixby, Oklahoma. No one was injured Monday night when the blast rattled the office in a strip mall near Tulsa, blowing the doors off and causing heavy damage, the FBI says.
Benjamin Rhoden, 29, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon, KJRH-TV reports.
Police said early Tuesday they were investigating the case as possible “domestic terrorism” because the target appeared to be a military office. But later in the day, authorities said it appeared to be a “criminal act” with an explosive device, not terrorism, but a motive had not been officially determined.
The explosion was reported about 10:30 p.m. Monday at the recruiting center near East 103rd Street and South Memorial, the FBI said. Bixby Police responded along with the Tulsa Police bomb squad. The FBI has since taken the lead in the investigation, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisting.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Witness Says a Person on a Motorcycle Through a Backpack ‘Pipe Bomb’ at the Door of the Recruiting Office & Sped Off Before the Blast
A witness told KJRH-TV that a person on a red motorcycle, described as a “crotch rocket” threw a backpack at the Air Force recruiting center and then drove off. The backpack then blew up. The witness said it appeared there was a “pipe bomb” inside the backpack.
The FBI said they were aware of that witness report, but would not confirm the details.
No one was inside the building. There were cars in the parking lot that were damaged, but no one was in the cars, the FBI said. No injuries have been reported.
An FBI spokesperson told the Tulsa World that evidence was collected at the scene, including a pipe. They will attempt to re-create the bomb as part of the investigation.
Vandalism was also reported at another recruiting center across the street last week, within walking distance of where the bomb was detonated, the FBI told the Tulsa World. A car’s tires were slashed and some of its windows were broken out, the FBI said.
“It’s suspicious,” FBI spokeswoman Jessi Rice said. “There’s no known connection. But it’s quite ironic that that happened.”
Rice told the newspaper that agents investigating the explosion have reached “no conclusion” on intent.
In a statement, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said, “While device origin and motive is not known at this time, the site of the explosion is a military office. The possibility of domestic terrorism cannot be excluded at this time. ATF and FBI will continue to process the scene and follow leads until a more definitive determination is made.”
The FBI later said they now believe it was a criminal act, not domestic terrorism, but the investigation is ongoing and no exact motive has been determined.
2. Roden Was Taken Into Custody at an Apartment Complex in Tulsa & the Bomb Squad Was at the Scene
The person of interest, identified Benjamin Roden, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon at an apartment complex in south Tulsa, Fox 23 News reports.
The FBI and the Tulsa Police Department bomb squad were at the Sand Dollar apartment complex at 61st and Riverside in Tulsa, KJRH-TV reports.
Roden was taken into custody about 3 p.m. Tuesday.
3. The Bomber Didn’t Appear to Want to Kill Anyone Because the Attack Happened at Night,
the FBI Says
The Air Force recruiting center is located in a shopping center alongside several other businesses, but photos from the scene show that the buildings appeared to be closed an unoccupied when the blast occurred.
“It’s a little bit comforting that they didn’t want to kill anybody,” FBI Special Agent Jessi Rice said at a press conference. “Obviously they would have done it in broad daylight if that were the case. So, from that standpoint, it’s a positive.”
Rice said they probably did it at night to hide, “didn’t want to be out in public with this incident.”
It appears that the explosion caused damage to at least one neighboring business, but the Air Force office was the most heavily damaged by the blast.
Nearby stores were open as usual on Tuesday. The front doors of the recruiting center were boarded up by Airmen about 7 a.m., the Tulsa World reports.
4. The Suspect Could Face Several Charges, Including Possession & Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction & Explosives
Several federal charges could be filed against the perpetrator, FBI Special Agent Jessi Rice told reporters.
“Potentially, we’re looking at weapons of mass destruction charges, explosive devices charges,” she told reporters. “So it depends on what route it goes, whether it’s terrorism or criminal related, that will determine what kind of charges will be pressed.”
Benjamin Rhoden has been identified only as a “person of interest” and it is not clear if charges will be filed Tuesday.
5. The FBI Called the Bombing a ‘Hit on the Military’
FBI Special Agent Jessi Rice told reporters that the FBI is taking the matter very seriously, calling it a “hit on the military,” during a press conference.
“That is a big deal to us,” she said. “This is something we do not take lightly by any means.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the FBI’s Oklahoma City field office at 405-290-7770.