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Aspen bombs wrapped like Christmas gifts, police say

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Man delivered note that mentions "Will & Testament," "2 crime scenes"
  • Bomb threat cost resort town millions on one of the busiest nights of the year
  • Body of James Blanning, 72, and weapons found in car east of Aspen
  • Two bombs left on sled in alley likely intended for other banks, police said
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ASPEN, Colorado (CNN) -- A man delivered bombs wrapped as Christmas presents to two banks Wednesday along with a note threatening "mass death" if they did not turn over tens of thousands of dollars, police in Aspen, Colorado, said Thursday.

A plastic sled left in Aspen, Colorado, on Wednesday had bombs wrapped as Christmas gifts.

A surveillance camera photo supplied by Aspen police shows the man identified as James Blanning.

Authorities were quickly alerted, and the man apparently halted his plan, leaving two bombs that were intended for other banks in an alley, police said.

"You had better be a very cool individual and not start a panic or many in Aspen will pay a horrible price in blood," said the note, which was released by police.

The man, identified as James Blanning, 72, who had had previous run-ins with law enforcement, was later found dead after apparently shooting himself, police said. Video Watch how the situation unfolded »

His body was found in his car in a rural area east of Aspen.

"At this point, we believe Blanning was acting alone," Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said Thursday.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of a 16-block area of Aspen on New Year's Eve, one of the busiest nights of the year for the resort town, after the bombs were found.

Linn said that it is impossible to calculate how much revenue businesses in the area lost on New Year's Eve because of the bomb scare but that it was easily "in the millions."

Bomb squads ultimately detonated the devices, and no one was injured.

Linn praised the banks for their "clearheaded response" in immediately alerting authorities on Wednesday.

The calls to police came about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Blanning had delivered "large plastic tubs" containing "wrapped Christmas-style presents" along with a threatening note to a Wells Fargo Bank branch and a Vectra Bank branch, police said. Video Watch how notes threatened destruction »

Repeatedly using the word "we," as though a group of people was behind the plot, the obscenity-filled note described a bomb filled with "unique chemicals and electronics" and demanded that $60,000 in hundred-dollar bills be handed over in 20 minutes outside the bank.

The note also refers to the Iraq war and describes President Bush as "Rove's and Chaney's [sic] monkey." Read note police say was left by suspected bomber »

"This is as much a suicide mission as a bank robbery," the note said.

The devices in the alley were first to be detonated, Linn said.

"They were found to contain improvised incendiary devices made of gasoline and containing what appeared to be cell phone actuators and anti-tamper devices," he said.

Authorities couldn't determine whether the bombs would have worked. When one bomb was detonated at Wells Fargo Bank, it triggered a fireball that was quickly extinguished, but authorities don't know whether that was the result of the detonation or the device itself activating, Linn said.

When Blanning's body was found in his vehicle, he had "at least a rifle" with him, and may have had other weapons as well, Linn said.

Authorities say the man also delivered a hand-written note to the Aspen Times.

A copy of the note showed a 10-line printed scrawl that included the words "Will & Testament" and "2 crime scenes" with two apparent addresses of apartments in Denver.

"For the first two years I was in prison I woke up every morning wishing I was dead. Now it comes to pass. I was and am a good man," the note begins.

Public records show that Blanning was convicted of several crimes, including forgery and theft, in 1996 in Rio Blanco County in northwest Colorado. His sentence was scheduled to end in 2009, but he was out of prison on parole.

In 1994, the Rocky Mountain News published a story about Blanning, then 58.

"An embittered man with a rope around his neck held off authorities from a perch on the roof of the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen for seven hours Thursday," the story said.

Blanning ultimately surrendered in that incident, according to authorities quoted in that story.

CNN left a phone message at a Denver address for Blanning found via a public records search. The call, which sought comment from a representative for him, was not immediately returned.

No public statement has been made on Blanning's behalf.

Substantial business was lost Wednesday evening, according to a report in the Rocky Mountain News. Video Watch a "surreal situation" in Aspen »


"This has got to be the worst for us. ... Outside the Fourth of July, this is the cash cow of all cash cows," the newspaper quoted the on-call manager of the Molly Gibson Lodge in Aspen as saying. "Most of the restaurants are going to be terribly hurt."

"People are losing so much money, it's crazy," Monique Wagner, front desk clerk at the Hyatt Grand Hotel, told the newspaper.

All About CrimeAspen (Colorado)

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