NAACP bombing motive still in question

Colorado Springs is still searching for answers two days after the attack.

Mark Reis/AP
This Jan. 6, 2015 photo shows at the bottom right the char marks from a device detonated Tuesday along the northeast corner of a building occupied by a barber shop near the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP in Colorado Springs, Colo. Chapter President Henry Allen Jr. told The Colorado Springs Gazette the blast was strong enough to knock items off the walls.

Colorado and federal authorities were trying to find the motive on Thursday for a homemade bomb planted behind NAACP offices in Colorado Springs, saying that they had not yet determined if it was a hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism.

The Colorado Springs chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People reopened on Thursday, two days after the improvised explosive device detonated outside the building it shares with a hair salon.

"If someone did this to scare us or hurt us, they did neither," said Carol Chippey-Rhanes, an assistant to the chapter's president and a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant. "We're back to business as usual, helping all people, not just black people."

The explosive device was set off on Tuesday against an exterior wall of the building. A gasoline canister placed next to the bomb did not detonate, and no one was injured in the blast.

Amy Sanders, spokeswoman for the FBI's field office in Denver, said in a statement that the agency "takes crimes of this nature very seriously" and is conducting a wide-ranging investigation.

"It has also not yet been determined if the motive was a hate crime, domestic terrorism, a personal act of violence against a specific individual, or other motive as there are numerous individuals and entities tied to the building in the vicinity of the explosion," she said.

The FBI has identified a "person of interest" in the crime, described as a balding white man about 40 years old who was driving an older model pickup truck with a missing or obscured license plate.

The NAACP's Colorado Springs chapter president, Henry Allen, and police agencies in and around the city of 440,000, about 70 miles south of Denver, denounced the bombing in a joint statement issued on Thursday.

The NAACP's national headquarters in Baltimore said in a statement posted on its website that while the motive for the blast is unknown, the organization "looks forward to a full and thorough investigation into this matter by federal agents and local law enforcement."

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said he was "saddened" by the violence.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Beech)

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