LITTLETON, Colo. --
An attempt to bomb a popular Denver shopping mall less than 1½ miles from Columbine High School failed on the 12th anniversary of the Columbine shooting and federal authorities released photos of a person of interest in the case.
First one, then a second homemade explosive device was found at Southwest Plaza Mall Wednesday afternoon, where 6,000 to 10,000 people were told to evacuate, as a loud alert siren went off in the mall.
The attempted bombing of the mall in southwest Denver drew a large response from local and federal authorities.
Photos of a person of interest caught on a surveillance camera were released prior to a 10 p.m. news conference outside the mall.
The two photos show a white male, with graying hair, a silver mustache, wearing a dark colored cap with a light colored logo on the front, gray and white horizontally stripped shirt, dark jacket with silver buttons, blue jeans, and dark colored shoes.
The man is carrying a plastic shopping bag that appears to be a Target bag. A Target store is located just to west of the mall and has its own security camera video system.
The man is standing inside an employee entrance of the mall.
"The public does have some level of access to the employee area of the mall," Kelley said.
"But it's not an area where the public would normally go," added FBI media coordinator Dave S. Joly.
The photos were being released, because authorities need help in identifying the person of interest, the sources said. The time stamp on the video shows the photos were taken about 11 minutes before the fire broke out.
"This individual possibly witnessed someone going in or out of the (door) or he is possibly involved," said Joly.
Anyone with information is asked to call a special tip line at 303-271-5615.
"We're trying to verify some really good tips that we have right now," Kelley said.
Fire Is First Sign Of Trouble
The incident began when a fire broke out in the hallway near the mall's Food Court around 11:52 a.m., said Jacki Kelley, spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
It was extinguished within 7 minutes and no one was hurt, Kelley said. Joly credited a mall security officer with quickly putting out the fire.
However, firefighters found two propane canisters next to an electrical box in the hallway where the fire started, Kelley said earlier.
A further check later turned up another suspicious device, Kelley said.
She described the second device as a "pipe bomb" found "near" the propane tanks. She said she didn't know if the devices were set to go off simultaneously.
Kelley called the explosive apparatus "potentially devastating."
Sources close to the investigation told CALL7 Investigators the pipe bomb was designed to be self-igniting and said it was "an attempt to hurt people." The source also said the propane canisters were designed to explode during the fire.
When the Jefferson County Bomb Squad used a robot to move the device to the parking lot, one end of the pipe bomb fell off, allowing investigators to look inside and see explosive material. Pipe bombs are usually filled with black gunpowder. Authorities would not give a size of the pipe bomb or describe it further.
The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation, Kelley said.
The head agents from the Denver FBI office were at the mall Wednesday evening, including the agents who led the Najibullah Zazi terrorism investigation.
Mall Near Columbine; 25 Schools Were On Lockout
Although no connection has been made between the explosive devices at Southwest Plaza and Columbine, the mall is less 1.25 miles from the school, scene of the worst high school shooting in U.S. history, which occurred 12 years ago Wednesday.
The two teens responsible for the high school shooting also left propane tank "bombs" and pipe bombs in the school, but most of the devices failed to explode. The devices were also placed in a common eating area of the school during the first lunch period.