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Pipe bomb suspect known as 'really nice kid'

College student Lucas John Helder in an undated photo released by the FBI. Helder has been arrested in connection with a wave of pipe bombs in five states.
College student Lucas John Helder in an undated photo released by the FBI. Helder has been arrested in connection with a wave of pipe bombs in five states.  

(CNN) -- Lucas John Helder describes himself as a musician, partygoer and online conversationalist on his rock band's Web site. But the federal government is painting a different picture of the 21-year-old college student.

Helder is accused of planting pipe bombs that injured an Iowa woman and destroyed a mailbox. He is suspected of placing explosive devices that injured six people from Illinois to Texas over a five-day period.

It's all a little hard to believe say people who know Helder.

"This is the farthest thing I could see him doing," said Matt Decorsey, a former roommate who talked with him a few weeks ago. "He was, like I said, a really nice kid. I just don't see him being violent like this."

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  •  Profile: Lucas Helder

People who live near Helder at his Menominee, Wisconsin, apartment also expressed amazement Tuesday as police searched the area for explosives. The news of Helder's alleged involvement in the mailbox pipe bombs also came as a shock for people at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menominee, where Helder is a junior majoring in art with a concentration in industrial design.

Shortly after a tip led the FBI to issue an all points bulletin for Helder, the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin's main campus in Madison notified authorities of a letter from the suspect. It was postmarked Omaha, Nebraska on Friday, the day the bombings started last week.

The letter said Helder was on a suicide mission. "I will die/change in the end for this but that's OK, hahaha paradise awaits," he writes. "Surely you can understand my logic." The letter goes on to say, "conforming to the boundaries and restrictions imposed by the government only reduces the substance of your lives."

Helder fancied himself a musician. He played guitar for a rock/grunge band called Apathy, based in nearby Rochester. On the band's Web site, Helder writes, "The top things I care about are my girlfriend ... and my music/band. I party, play guitar, and talk online to everyone. That's my life."

Former classmates told The Associated Press that Helder loved the grunge band Nirvana and idolized its lead singer, Kurt Cobain, who killed himself in 1994.

His band, Apathy, hasn't made it out of the small-club scene, but Helder made front-page headlines this week. He was taken into custody Tuesday night after a high-speed chase with authorities in Nevada.

Washoe County, Nevada, Sheriff Dennis Balaam said Helder was being held on suicide watch because he threatened to harm himself when he surrendered.




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