David Ansberry, a former hippie who left a homemade bomb outside the police station in Nederland, Colorado, in October 2016, was sentenced to 27 years in prison on Friday after a judge ruled it was an act of terrorism even though the device never exploded
A former hippie who left a homemade bomb outside the police station in a Colorado mountain town has been sentenced to 27 years in prison after a judge ruled it was an act of terrorism even though the device never exploded.
David Ansberry pleaded guilty to leaving the device containing the unstable chemical compound HMDT, a peroxide-based compound that has been used by al Qaida terrorists, in a duffel bag outside the station in a strip mall in Nederland on October 11, 2016.
The bomb meant as retaliation for the decades-old murder of Ansberry’s friend Guy Goughner, who was fatally shot by the town marshal in 1971.
Ansberry was spotted on surveillance video when he bought the phones he used for the device and was easily recognizable because he was only 3 feet 6 inches tall and using crutches because of the brittle bone disease he has suffered from since birth.
On the eve of his sentencing Friday, Ansberry, now 67 and in a wheelchair, argued that he never meant for the bomb to go off – but the judge didn’t buy it.
US District Judge Christine Arguello on Friday said the device was not a hoax and dozens could have died had Ansberry been successful in his attempts to detonate it remotely using a cellphone.
Ansberry pleaded guilty last year to planting a duffel bag with the device containing an unstable chemical compound called HMDT outside the station (above)
Ansberry was spotted on surveillance video when he bought the phones he used for the device. He was easily recognizable because he stood at only 3 feet 6 inches tall and was using crutches because of the brittle bone disease he has suffered from since birth
The 27-year sentence was the minimum that could have been handed down after Arguello sided with prosecutors in treating the crime as terrorism, which dramatically increased the sentencing range.
‘[Ansberry] is a sophisticated, calculating, and culpable offender who risked killing public servants indiscriminately to indulge his 40-year-old grudge and send a message to police,’ prosecutors wrote.
The defendant had been linked to a radical hippie group known as STP, or the STP Family, which was reportedly once based in the mountains outside of Boulder and known to be violent.
Ansberry’s comments before the bomb was left, including in his journal were enough to convince prosecutors and the judge that he’d built the bomb to seek retaliation.
Ansberry argued that he was merely trying to draw attention to police shootings generally.
In a written statement to the court that mentioned the fatal shootings of students at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970 and the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Ansberry said he designed the device, selected its placement in the strip mall – also home to an alternative outdoor-learning school, a diner and other businesses – and time of detonation to ensure that no one was injured and to only cause limited property damage.
He reiterated that message in court and warned against abusing the word terrorist as people had done with the label communist during the Cold War before he was sentenced.
He did not apologize for the fear that the device caused in the laid-back town despite its failure.
Ansberry’s lawyers argued that he should only face up to over two years in prison, about the time he has already served since his arrest.
Defense lawyer Abraham Hutt said the bomb did not even damage the cement after the bomb squad fired a high energy slug into it.
Government experts earlier testified that the blast tore apart sand bags set up to send energy waves from the explosion upward and shattered the glass jar containing the HMDT, but it failed to ignite a bag full of crushed hexamine camping fuel tablets attached by another wire to the device.
The HDMT that apparently degraded and lost its potency, which Arguello said was ‘fortuitous’.
On the eve of his sentencing Friday, Ansberry, now 67 and in a wheelchair, argued that he never meant for the bomb to go off – but the judge didn’t buy it. Local news video shows the wreckage after the device was detonated by a bomb squad
Police Detective Darragh O’Nuallain, who grew up amid terrorist attacks in Ireland, was the first to find the bag two hours after the last detonation attempt when he arrived for work.
While at first he thought the bag was lost property found along a trail near town, he said he recognized the threat once he looked inside.
Fearing for the children who were about to arrive for school, the father thought about putting it in his car and driving it out of town but then worried he might be caught in traffic and hurt others.
He was initially treated as a possible suspect and eventually diagnosed with PTSD.
He cannot talk about the school next to the police station without becoming emotional.
‘We don’t deserve to be blown off the face of the earth because he has some political grudge,’ he said of local police.