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Suspect in Mailbox Bombings Surrenders

BY Admin  May 8, 2002 at 1:30 PM EDT

The arrest followed a 40-mile police chase, and came about eight hours after the FBI issued an all-points bulletin for the suspect.

Helder pulled over on Interstate 80 outside of Fernley, Nevada, about 50 miles east of Reno, surrendering to troopers who had been following him. He threw a gun to the ground upon leaving his car.

The college student is being held in Nevada’s Washoe County Jail, and will likely be arraigned Wednesday afternoon. The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa immediately charged him with two criminal counts.

Helder also faces federal charges in Rockford, Illinois, for using explosives to commit a violent crime and to maliciously damage property. Other charges are expected to follow. The 21-year-old Helder could face from 30 years to life in prison for the two Iowa counts.

When reporters asked Helder if he had a comment, he responded “no.”

“This was an incident of national concern which received a national response,” said U.S. Attorney Charles Larson, who accused Helder of a May 3 pipe bombing incident that injured a woman in Tipton, Iowa.

The first of the bombs was discovered in an Illinois mailbox on Friday. Since then, others have been found in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas. Six people have been wounded by the bombs, but none seriously.

Helder, an art major, attends the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Local authorities in his home town of Pine Island, Minn. said he has no previous criminal record.

Typewritten letters accompanying the bombs contained anti-government messages with the words, “The United States strives to provide freedom for their people. Do we really have personal freedom? I’ve lived here for many years, and I see much limitation.”

“Do you people enjoy this trend of limitation? If not, change it!” the letters said.