SILVER CITY, N.M. -- The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating an incident in which a pipe bomb exploded under a vehicle in Santa Clara last week.
No one was injured in the blast, but the bomb, which was placed under a Bayard police officer's personal vehicle parked at his home, was powerful enough that it could have killed someone had they been standing close enough, authorities said.
"It would have been very capable of killing someone if someone had been in the wrong place when it went off," said Brent Quinn, resident agent in charge with the Las Cruces office of the ATF.
Quinn confirmed Monday that the ATF is investigating the incident and is working with the FBI and the New Mexico State Police on the investigation and currently has "people of interest."
"All the evidence has been sent in and we are continuing to conduct interviews," he said.
The explosion was heard by Santa Clara Police Officer Salvador Quintana, who was on patrol on the evening of Sept. 18, when he heard a loud bang at 10:39 p.m., his report states. Quintana wrote that he continued patrolling the village looking for the source of the explosion and when he was unable to find anything he called Central Dispatch to ask if anyone had reported hearing an explosion.
At that time, Quintana was also contacted by Dale Lee, a police officer with the Bayard Department. Lee directed Quintana to come to his home at 386 Racetrack Road in Santa Clara, where the bomb had exploded under Lee's gray Ford Ranger.
The explosion ended up damaging Lee's truck, spare tire, and the skirting on his mobile home.
Quintana wrote in his report that he could see a black metal pipe about 12 inches long, underneath Lee's vehicle.
At that time, state police had also arrived on the scene, and they then took over the investigation at Lee's request.
Agent Quinn said that his office was contacted the following day, and is usually brought in by other law enforcement agencies on violent crimes that involve firearms, explosives or arson.
Quinn said that the person responsible could face federal charges of manufacturing an explosive without a license and possession of a destructive device, both of which carry 10-year sentences and up to a $250,000 fine.
"This is something we are going to stay on top of until an arrest gets made," he added.
Anyone with information on the bomb can contact the ATF office in Las Cruces at (575) 521-2300.
Quinn said callers can remain anonymous, if they choose.
Copyright 2011 - Silver City Sun-News, N.M.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service