BOULDER, Colo. — A man suspected of leaving a homemade bomb at a Colorado shopping mall – initially raising concerns about a possible Columbine-inspired plot – was captured Tuesday without a fight outside of a grocery store after he was spotted having coffee.
Federal and local officials allege 65-year-old Earl Albert Moore planted a pipe bomb and propane tanks in the Southwest Plaza Mall in the south Denver suburbs last week. The explosives were found April 20 after a fire in a hallway at the mall's food court, but they didn't detonate.
The discovery came on the 12th anniversary of the Columbine shootings and the mall is just two miles away from the high school where teenage gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher in 1999. Both the fire and the school shootings occurred around the same time of day and a pipe bomb and propane tanks were also found at Columbine after the shootings.
Authorities looked at the possibility of a connection between the two events but say they've concluded there was no tie. FBI agents have said they have found a motive, but they refused to reveal it Tuesday.
Police arrested Moore after a shopper spotted him having a cup of coffee in a Starbucks inside a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder. Authorities said he was unarmed and officers didn't have to draw their weapons.
Police and store security searched the store after Moore's arrest and said they didn't find anything suspicious.
Supermarket spokeswoman Kelli McGannon said the shopper who spotted Moore alerted a store manager and then dialed 911.
Boulder police officer Steve Cast said he and officer Greg Perry responded to the store and that a manager pointed out Moore to Perry. Perry was watching Moore when the suspect went out a side entrance near the coffee shop. Cast, who was outside in a marked police car, was able to stop him.
"He turned toward me and realized I was the police and did an about-face," said Cast. Cast said he swung his car around to block Moore and got out of the car, with his hand on his gun. Moore immediately got on the ground when ordered and didn't talk to Cast.
Boulder police spokeswoman Kim Kobel said Moore had some facial hair, like he hadn't shaved, but had no mustache as shown in pictures released by the FBI.
Officials identified Moore as the suspect on Sunday 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, who was released from prison a week before the explosives were found.
It's unclear where Moore spent the past six days but FBI spokesman Dave Joly said he was homeless. Kobel said it was unclear whether he was camping in Boulder. He's due to appear in court Wednesday.
Moore has an extensive criminal record and public records show he lived in Colorado at least part time from the mid-1980s to 2004.
Federal Bureau of Prisons records show that Moore was released from prison April 13 after serving time in a federal prison in Atlanta and Estill, S.C. Federal court record show that Moore pleaded guilty in May 2005 to robbing a bank in Crab Orchard, W.Va., of $2,546.
A judge sentenced Moore to 18 years in prison for the bank robbery. However, his sentence was reduced to seven years in February 2008 after prosecutors asked for a reduction 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.
In 1985, Moore pleaded guilty to unlawful escape from custody of the attorney general and possession of an unregistered firearm and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, according to court records. Moore had walked away from a halfway house and was later found with machine gun parts, according to records.
Federal authorities could not immediately provide details of where he served his sentence in that case.
In that case, U.S. District Judge Zita Weinshienk noted in July 1985 that Moore had a "long past history of offenses involving firearms and explosives" and denied a reduction of his sentence, saying that Moore "was not an 'average' offender." Moore's public defender asked for a reduction in his sentence partly because he cooperated with federal agents in the discovery of a drug lab in New Jersey and aided in their apprehension, according to documents stored at the Federal Records Center in suburban Denver.
Moore also served a year in Danbury, Conn., federal prison in 1983, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross.
Details of his previous court cases were not immediately available.
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.
Public records show the owners of an apartment complex in Denver had filed to evict Moore and a female relative in October 2004 for failure to pay rent, The Denver Post reported.
Two banks also filed claims saying he owed them a total of more than $11,000, Denver court records show.
Associated Press writers Catherine Tsai, Sheila V Kumar, Dan Elliott and Judith Kohler contributed to this report from Denver.