Colorado: Mall bomb suspect has long criminal history; DNA evidence from homemade bomb led investigators to man

By P. Solomon Banda

Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- A man suspected of placing a homemade bomb in a shopping mall near Columbine High School has a history of offenses involving firearms and explosives that dates back at least 27 years, court records show.

Earl Albert Moore, 65, who was released from federal prison April 13, was scheduled to make his first court appearance Wednesday after his arrest outside a Boulder supermarket. The FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force named Moore a suspect after a fire broke out April 20 at Southwest Plaza Mall and authorities found a pipe bomb and two propane tanks.

Moore, who had been the subject of a nationwide alert by the FBI, was arrested without a fight Tuesday outside the King Soopers grocery store after a shopper spotted him having coffee at a Starbucks inside. The shopper alerted a store manager and dialed 911.

The explosives at the mall about two miles from Columbine raised fears that the apparent bombing attempt coincided with the 12-year anniversary of the shootings at the school, but officials now say they were unrelated. The two student gunmen who killed 12 students and a teacher before shooting themselves also placed a propane tank and pipe bombs in the school.

FBI agents said Tuesday that they have a motive for the fire and homemade bombs found in the mall, but they wouldn't say what it is.

Boulder police officer Steve Cast, who arrested Moore, said speculation about a possible link to Columbine stirred a lot of emotion among Coloradans.

"To be able to be part of the team that leads to the apprehension of this guy, it's a great feeling," said Cast, one of two officers who responded to the store. The other officer walked into the store and watched Moore, who then walked outside.

Cast, who had just driven up, said Moore did "an about face" when he saw the officer's car but dropped to the ground when ordered. Cast said the suspect was unarmed and compliant, which he attributes in part to Moore's long experience with the law.

"He's a career criminal," Cast said. "He knows what's about to happen."

Moore departed the store so abruptly that he left a red-and-white coat and other, unspecified personal items behind, KMGH-TV reported. Those items were turned over to police, store workers said.

Moore's record dates back to at least 1966, when he was 20, according to court documents. He pleaded guilty in 1985 to escape and possession of an unregistered firearm and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after walking away from a halfway house and possessing machine gun parts, according to court records.

In denying a reduced sentence in that case, U.S. District Judge Zita Weinshienk noted that Moore had a "long past history of offenses involving firearms and explosives," saying he "was not an 'average' offender."

Federal authorities could not immediately provide details of where he served his sentence in that case. Details of Moore's earlier cases were not immediately available.

Moore also served a year in a Danbury, Conn., federal prison in 1983, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross.

His latest prison stint ended just a week before the fire in the Denver-area mall. Moore had been serving time in federal prisons in Atlanta and Estill, S.C., after pleading guilty in May 2005 to robbing a Crab Orchard, W.Va., bank of $2,546.

A judge sentenced Moore to 18 years in prison for the robbery, but in February 2008 his sentence was reduced to seven years at prosecutors' request because he cooperated with authorities in another case, according to court documents.

Colorado Bureau of Investigation records show several arrests for possession of dangerous drugs, theft, and possession of burglary tools dating to 1984. Court records show that an arrest warrant had been issued for Moore in September 2004, six months before the West Virginia bank robbery, for his failure to appear at a court hearing related to a burglary tools case. He lived in Colorado at least part-time from the mid-1980s to 2004.

Moore has used at least seven aliases that include variations of the names Earl Albert Buchannan, Donald Charles Morelli and Gary Steele, according to state arrest records. In addition, the FBI said Moore also uses the alias John Lindzy.

Officials on Sunday identified Moore as the suspect in the attempted mall bombing after viewing surveillance video showing him in the mall and on a bus. The FBI then alerted its field offices covering all 50 states and Puerto Rico to be on the lookout for Moore.

It's unclear where Moore spent the past six days but FBI spokesman Dave Joly said he was homeless.

When Moore was arrested Tuesday, he didn't have the mustache he had in the widely circulated mug shots, but Cast said he had no problem identifying the suspect after having looked at photos. The officer said the shopper's description of Moore's jacket also helped.

Police and store security searched the store after Moore's arrest and said they didn't find anything suspicious.

Published: Thu, Apr 28, 2011

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