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FBI, Jeffco release few details about investigation

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Multiple agencies continue search for 'person of interest'

By Emile Hallez

The FBI is examining myriad leads related to the pipe bomb and two propane tanks discovered Wednesday in Southwest Plaza mall, but the agency is mostly mum about the investigation.

In a joint effort with the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Denver FBI continues to search for a “person of interest,” a man seen by at least two of the mall’s security cameras.

The explosives were found at 11:52 a.m., after a small fire broke out on or around the propane tanks in a back hall near the food court. A mall employee, who works in a tuxedo shop, was reportedly the first to notice the fire, which was extinguished seven minutes later by mall security officers.

A silver-haired man with a mustache is seen in three photos the agency has released, two of which show him in a stairwell and the third at the top of an escalator. In the images the man is wearing a dark-colored baseball hat, a horizontally striped shirt, a dark-colored jacket and jeans. He is also seen carrying a plastic bag that appears to be from Target — which has a store next to the mall.

“Right now we are definitely not short on leads,” Denver FBI spokesman Dave Joly said late Thursday. “We have plenty of leads. We can’t talk about any of them.”

Since the investigation is ongoing, and agents are interviewing scores of mall employees and customers, information about any clues may not be released soon. Even details about the crime scene, including the size of the two propane tanks and their proximity to the pipe bomb, are under wraps.

“We’re not releasing a lot of information about the devices,” Joly said. “We’re still investigating, and we’re still interviewing people. This is 36 hours old.”

Describing the explosive devices to the media could unintentionally alter interviews with witnesses who saw the person of interest or the crime seen, he said.

Shortly after the fire began, mall security began evacuating about 300 employees and several thousand customers to the parking lots. The mall’s fire alarms were not activated, and the system was reportedly being tested earlier that morning.

Anyone with information about the person of interest or who witnessed suspicious activity at the mall is encouraged to contact the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office at 303-271-5615.

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.