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Context of 'February 20, 1987: ’Unabomber’ Device Explodes, Injuring Utah Shop Owner; Eyewitness Generates Sketch of Suspect'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event February 20, 1987: ’Unabomber’ Device Explodes, Injuring Utah Shop Owner; Eyewitness Generates Sketch of Suspect. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

A photograph of Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, taken in 1968 while Kaczynski was a young faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley.A photograph of Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, taken in 1968 while Kaczynski was a young faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley. [Source: George M. Bergman / Wikimedia]An unmailed package is found in a car park at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and brought to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, because of its return address; the addressee now teaches at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Buckley Crist, the material sciences professor named in the return address on the package cannot identify it, and turns it over to campus security. When Northwestern police officer Terry Marker opens it, it explodes, injuring him slightly. The package contains a pipe bomb packed in a carved wooden box. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/14/1996; Washington Post, 1998] The bomb is made of a nine-inch pipe filled with explosive powders and triggered by a nail held by rubber bands that strikes and ignites match heads when the box is opened. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] The package contains 10 $1 commemorative Eugene O’Neill stamps on its outer wrapper. Authorities will later speculate that the bomber may have chosen the O’Neill stamps because the playwright was an ardent supporter of anarchists. [Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). It is believed to be Kaczynski’s first bomb. [New York Times, 4/7/1996]

Entity Tags: Terry Marker, Northwestern University, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Buckley Crist

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A maintenance worker at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City finds a bomb in a business classroom. The device is defused by the local bomb squad and no one is injured. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] The bomb will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996).

Entity Tags: Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, University of Utah

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Hugh C. Scrutton.Hugh C. Scrutton. [Source: Washington Post]In Sacramento, California, Hugh C. Scrutton is killed when he tries to remove what looks to be a road hazard from the parking lot—a block of wood with nails protruding from it inside a paper bag—behind his computer rental shop. The “hazard” is actually a bomb [BBC, 11/12/1987; Knight Ridder, 5/28/1995; Washington Post, 1998; World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] consisting of three 10-inch pipes filled with a mixture of potassium sulfate, potassium chloride, ammonium nitrate, and aluminum powder. The bomb contains shrapnel consisting of sharp chunks of metal, nails, and splinters. It explodes with enormous force, killing Scrutton almost instantly. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] Like earlier bombs, this bomb contains the initials “FC” engraved on a metal component; authorities later learn that “FC” stands for “Freedom Club.” [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). In 1967, Scrutton took a summer math course at the University of California at Berkeley while Kaczynski taught mathematics there; it is not known whether the two crossed paths during that time. [Washington Post, 4/14/1996]

Entity Tags: Hugh Scrutton, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, University of California at Berkeley

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

The FBI’s sketch of the as-yet-unidentified ‘Unabomber.’The FBI’s sketch of the as-yet-unidentified ‘Unabomber.’ [Source: FBI]Gary Wright, the owner of CAAMS Inc., a Salt Lake City, Utah, computer shop, is injured when he attempts to remove a “road hazard” at the rear entrance of his shop. The “hazard” is actually a bomb, similar to one that killed another computer shop owner in Sacramento, California, over a year ago (see December 11, 1985). A secretary saw a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses leave the bag containing the bomb; she becomes the first eyewitness in what will later become the “Unabomber” investigation (see April 3, 1996). [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] The “Unabomber” is improving his skills; this bomb contains a more sophisticated triggering device than earlier constructions. [World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] Almost six years ago, Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber,” planted another bomb in Salt Lake City (see October 8, 1981). But for now, the FBI has no knowledge of Kaczynski’s identity. It has, however, found what it calls “an absolute link” between the Wright bombing and the “Unabom” serial bombings that have been going on since 1978 (see May 25-26, 1978). Federal bomb expert Ron Wolters says the bombs in the different cases display a high level of similarity. Police describe the as-yet-unidentified bomber as a disgruntled academician or computer worker. [Chicago Sun-Times, 2/24/1987]

Entity Tags: CAAMS Inc, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Ron Wolters, Gary Wright

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

In Tiburon, California, Dr. Charles Epstein, a geneticist at the University of California, opens a package mailed to his home and brought inside by his daughter Joanna. The package contains a wooden box, which itself contains a bomb. The resulting explosion blows off several of Epstein’s fingers, breaks his arm, and causes a number of abdominal injuries. Epstein is known as a researcher who has helped identify a gene that may contribute to Down’s Syndrome. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 6/25/1993; Washington Post, 1998; World of Forensic Science, 1/1/2005] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). Kaczynski once worked as a professor at UC-Berkeley. This is the first bomb known to have been detonated by Kaczynski in over six years (see February 20, 1987). Another device mailed by Kaczynski will detonate two days later (see June 24, 1993).

Entity Tags: University of California at Berkeley, Charles Epstein, Joanna Epstein, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

An FBI recreation of one of the Unabomber’s explosive devices, on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC.An FBI recreation of one of the Unabomber’s explosive devices, on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC. [Source: Newseum / Wikimedia]Computer scientist David Gelernter of Yale University opens a package mailed to his office. The package contains a bomb. It explodes in Gelernter’s hands, severely injuring and ultimately disfiguring him. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998] The school’s sprinkler system douses a small blaze started by the bomb. Gelernter is in shock from his injuries; he races down five flights of stairs to the infirmary, dripping blood and fending off bystanders with cries of “Leave me alone!” He suffers extensive injuries to his abdomen, chest, face, and hands. Within a day, the Gelernter bombing is added to the “UNABOM” list of serial bombings, along with the University of California bombing from two days earlier (see June 22, 1993). Federal authorities are dismayed that the “Unabomber” bombings have restarted after more than six years of inactivity (see February 20, 1987). Gelernter may have been targeted because of his invention of a computer language that allows desktop computers to process information in a much more powerful fashion. FBI Director William Sessions says: “The FBI will go back and look at all the bombings of a similar character. It’s the logical thing to be done, and it will be done.” [Washington Post, 6/25/1993] The bombing will later be shown to be the work of Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996).

Entity Tags: William S. Sessions, David Gelernter, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski, Yale University

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, accused of killing two people and injuring 29 as part of the ‘Unabomber’ crime spree, shown shortly after his arrest. He is wearing the orange prison garb issued to him by Montana authorities.Theodore ‘Ted’ Kaczynski, accused of killing two people and injuring 29 as part of the ‘Unabomber’ crime spree, shown shortly after his arrest. He is wearing the orange prison garb issued to him by Montana authorities. [Source: Associated Press]Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, a former University of California at Berkeley mathematics professor who now lives as a recluse in a one-room, 10-foot by 12-foot cabin in the mountains outside Lincoln, Montana, is arrested for possession of bomb components. He is subsequently proven to be the “Unabomber” (see January 22, 1998). Kaczynski is turned in to law enforcement officials by his brother David Kaczynski, who believes Kaczynski’s writings bear a marked resemblance to the Unabomber’s recently published manifesto (see September 19, 1995 and January-March 1996 and After). [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 1998; KSPR-TV, 2011]
Tiny Cabin Filled with Evidence - The cabin lacks indoor plumbing and running water. Among other items, the cabin contains a potbellied stove, which Kaczynski used to both heat the cabin and melt the metals used in making his bombs; a hooded sweatshirt similar to the one he is depicted as wearing in the now-infamous FBI sketch released of him years earlier (see February 20, 1987); the typewriter used to type his “manifesto”; books on bomb-making and many other subjects; a homemade pistol; and other more mundane items. [Washington Post, 4/4/1996; KSPR-TV, 2011] In the days after the arrest, the FBI will reveal that two live bombs found in the cabin are nearly identical to lethal devices used by the Unabomber in 1994 and 1995, though the bureau will not give more specifics about the bombs found. “It was as if once he found the right design, he stuck with it,” an FBI official will say. [New York Times, 4/8/1996] The evidence found in the cabin sheds light on Kaczynski’s motivations for the bombings (see April 3, 1996).
FBI Had No Leads - Kaczynski is responsible for killing Hugh Scrutton and two other people (see December 10, 1994 and April 24, 1995) and injuring 29 others between 1978 and 1995. FBI officials later say that while they have tracked thousands of leads over Kaczynski’s 18-year bombing spree, they had no real clues as to his identity before his brother stepped up to identify him as a possible suspect. David Kaczynski later says that he was not sure his brother was the bomber for a very long time: “I had never seen him violent, not toward me, not toward anyone. I tended to see his anger turned inward,” he will say. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 8/21/1998]
Arrest Uneventful - The arrest comes after weeks of intensive, if unobtrusive, surveillance by the FBI along with postal inspectors and explosives specialists. Disguised as lumberjacks and outdoorsmen, the agents began slipping into Helena and the tiny hamlet of Lincoln, some 50 miles northwest of Helena and not far from the cabin. The agents learned more about Kaczynski from local residents, and found that he is essentially a hermit who rarely leaves the property. FBI snipers moved in close to the cabin and staked it out for weeks, communicating with their commanders by encrypted radios. Mostly they watched as Kaczynski tended his garden and retrieved provisions from his root cellar; during the time he was under surveillance, he never left the property. On April 3, the agents finally move in, with 40 men in body armor surrounding the cabin and proffering a search warrant. An Army ordnance team accompanies the agents, with the duty of searching for booby traps; none are found. When Kaczynski sees the agents, he tries to withdraw inside the cabins, but is restrained. Once the agents have him, Kaczynski puts up no further resistance, and as one official says, becomes “quite personable, and well spoken.” He immediately asks for a lawyer, and refuses to answer questions, though he engages in pleasant small talk with the agents. A law enforcement official, noting that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have collected a huge amount of physical and forensic evidence over the 17-year span of bombings, says, “We always believed there would come a day when all these many bits of information would begin to come together and that day was the day we executed the search warrant.” [New York Times, 4/4/1996]

Entity Tags: David Kaczynski, Percy Wood, University of California at Berkeley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hugh Scrutton, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Federal Judge Charles Lovell releases an inventory of the contents of the remote Montana cabin belonging to the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). The inventory of the cabin’s contents, mostly the belongings of Unabomber suspect Theodore J. Kaczynski, was compiled by the FBI. The 600-item inventory shows that Kaczynski had the addresses and other information of corporate executives, presumably for future bombing targets, along with a plethora of explosive devices and components, five guns, street maps of San Francisco, and hundreds of books. The books include a Bible, volumes on Eastern mysticism, and a book by social critic Paul Goodman. The FBI also lists medications such as trazodone hydrochloride, leading investigators to believe that Kaczynski may suffer from insomnia or another malady. The inventory also lists a hooded jacket, a blue zippered sweatshirt with a hood, and two pairs of plastic glasses, similar to the clothing and sunglasses described by a 1987 witness to a Salt Lake City bombing (see February 20, 1987). The inventory includes hundreds of mundane items such as a yellow plastic bucket, hiking boots, a bag of fishhooks, matches, a pocket knife, a metal pot, and a backpack. Lovell also releases the original search warrant, which told what agents believed they might find, including explosives and books on Chinese philosophy as cited in Kaczynski’s manifesto (see September 19, 1995). Three typewriters, apparently used to type the manifesto, are also listed. [New York Times, 4/16/1996]

Entity Tags: Charles C. Lovell, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Theodore J. (“Ted”) Kaczynski

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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