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Officer: Bomb suspect seemed 'carefree'

Lt. Thom Bjerke of the Pershing County, Nevada, Sheriff's Department
Lt. Thom Bjerke of the Pershing County, Nevada, Sheriff's Department  

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RENO, Nevada (CNN) -- Accused pipe bomber Lucas Helder has admitted planting 18 devices in a weekend five-state spree, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday. Helder is being held without bail in Reno, Nevada, where he is awaiting transfer to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Helder was captured Tuesday in Nevada after leading FBI agents and the state police on a high-speed car chase. He is facing federal charges in four states.

CNN's Paula Zahn talked with Lt. Thom Bjerke of the Pershing County, Nevada, Sheriff's Department. Bjerke was part of the team that took Helder into custody.

CNN: How did you pull this off?

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BJERKE: Well, we got some good information ... that Mr. Helder pulled off at [Exit] 119 on Interstate 80 and responded [with] a bunch of deputies, including myself to intercept him there. The deputies saw the car on I-80 and got turned around on him and confirmed it was Mr. Helder, and we got in the case from there.

CNN: And as the FBI surrounded the car and ordered him to come out, he hesitated for several minutes until -- was it you who talked to him?

BJERKE: He didn't really hesitate. I didn't talk to him. He talked to an FBI agent on the phone and that communicated through the FBI on the scene. They talked him into throwing the weapon out. He waited for about two minutes, and then he seemed confused.

CNN: He had a ...

BJERKE: A [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms] cuffing crew went up ... and I was in the stack with them. I had a shotgun with some beanbag rounds in it. And he just [seemed] kind of confused by what the FBI agents were telling him. ... I just talked to him a little bit and told him it was OK, and everything was almost over.

CNN: He seemed to be fascinated by the weapon you were carrying and the fact that it had -- you had these bags of beans. What did he say to you about that?

BJERKE: He was interested by everyone's weapon. He wanted to know what kind of weapons that we had, and he fully seemed interested in getting a hold of some of the weapons sometime.

CNN: I understand he had a pretty bizarre explanation of what he was trying to accomplish. Did he tell you or another investigator that he was actually trying to plant bombs in a pattern that would create a happy face on the map?

BJERKE: That's correct. He told that to one of the undercover agents that was actually there.

CNN: And what was his demeanor when he was sort of telling you about what this plan was that he had in mind?

BJERKE: He seemed kind of carefree or amused about what was going on.

CNN: Now that we have more of the details, this picture that has emerged is quite striking that this guy was pulled over three different times in three different states, one for an expired license, one for speeding, one for not wearing a seat belt. Are you kind of surprised no one got him earlier just based on some of his violations?

BJERKE: Not really. We had some good information by the time he got to where we were. The communication between the agencies was really pretty good.

CNN: And once again, when you said he seemed sort of amused by what was going down, do you think he was fully aware of the significance and the danger that he exposed these folks to across the country?

BJERKE: I really don't. He just had sort of a plan that's his, and he was more amused by what we were doing and really interested in that. He seemed sort of carefree to me.




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