Man Who Placed Improvised Explosive Device at Colorado Springs Building Pleads Guilty
DENVER – Thaddeus Cheyenne Murphy, age 44, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, pled guilty this morning before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez to damage to a building by means of fire and explosion and felon in possession of a firearm, U.S. Attorney John Walsh, FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Thomas Ravenelle and ATF Denver Division Acting Special Agent in Charge David Booth announced, in conjunction with the Colorado Springs Police Department. Judge Martinez is scheduled to sentence Murphy on November 3, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. Murphy, who appeared at the hearing in custody, was remanded at its conclusion.
Murphy was first charged by Criminal Complaint on February 20, 2015. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on February 23, 2015. He pled guilty today, August 3, 2015. According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, on January 6, 2015 at 10:48 a.m., the Colorado Springs Police Department (“CSPD”) received a 911 call about an explosion that occurred at 603 S. El Paso Street in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The caller said someone tried to blow up the building by putting stick of dynamite next to a container of gasoline and lighting it. He, along with others, reportedly heard a huge explosion inside the building. When one of the building’s occupants went outside, he saw a gas can sitting next to the building where the explosion happened.
The explosion occurred at the northeast (back) corner of the building. The building houses two businesses, including Mr. G’s Hair Design Studios and the Colorado Springs Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”). The business closest to the explosion was Mr. G’s Hair Design Studios. The NAACP was on the south side of the building opposite the blast site. Also on the building was a sign that read “Income Tax”, but that business had not been active for some time.
Investigators arrived and examined the scene of the blast. The building had charring on its side and a concrete wall about six feet away had also been damaged. The resultant damage was minimal. At the blast site itself, investigators found a piece of metal pipe as well as a piece of a road flare and the gas can. The gas can, which was about ¾ full, failed to ignite. Analysis of the material recovered from the scene showed that the device used to cause the explosion and fire at the building was an improvised explosive device (“IED”) commonly known as a pipe bomb.
Witnesses told investigators that the person who placed the bomb was a white male, in his 30s or 40s, either bald or close shaved hair with a medium to heavy build. Witnesses also described the suspect vehicle as a white truck with a black or dark colored hood. They said the tailgate of the truck was up before the blast, but was left down after the blast driving away from the scene. Through investigation, agents found surveillance video from a residence in a neighborhood near. The video showed a distinctive white Ford truck with a black hood driving toward the location with its tailgate up shortly before the blast; and, the same distinctive truck driving away from the location with its tailgate down right after the blast.
A Colorado Springs Police Department detective familiar with the investigation found a truck matching the description, and investigators found that it matched the truck from the surveillance video. Investigators observed the truck parked at the defendant’s residence, and found that the truck was registered to the defendant. In reviewing the defendant’s driver’s license photo, investigators also found the defendant matched the description of the suspect given by the witnesses. A records check of the defendant’s criminal history showed that he had previously been convicted of two felony thefts, crimes punishable by a term exceeding one year.
Agents from the FBI-JTTF obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s truck and residence. When they executed the warrant, agents found seven (7) firearms inside the residence, including two assault rifles, a handgun, two shotguns, and a WWII era Russian made battle rifle. A homemade silencer was found with the firearms as well. Investigators also found components left over from the defendant’s IED, including the remaining road flares, galvanize pipe, “Dragon’s Breath” shotgun shells, and duct tape.
Agents determined that the defendant made the pipe bomb in his garage out of galvanized pipe and a “Dragon’s Breath” shotgun shell. He placed the pipe bomb, along with a gas can, on the back side of the building and lit the bomb fuse with a road flare. The defendant told investigators that he placed the bomb in an effort to get back at his former accountant who had failed to return the defendant’s calls. The defendant admitted that he knew he was not allowed to possess firearms because he was a convicted felon.
Murphy faces not less than 5 years, and up to 20 years in federal prison for arson of a building, and not more than 10 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm. There is also a fine of not more than $250,000 for each of the two counts.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Colorado Springs Joint Terrorism Task Force, the ATF, and the Colorado Springs Police Department with support from the El Paso County Sheriff.
The defendant is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Holloway.