Incident Summary:

05/03/2002: Between the dates of May 3-7, 2002 eighteen pipe bombs were found in rural mailboxes in five Midwestern states in the U.S.A. collectively causing seven injuries and leading to widespread panic in the region. In the set incidents that occurred on May 3, 2002, seven nearly identical bombs were found by mail carriers and residents in or near mailboxes between 10:49am and 2:30pm in eastern Iowa and western Illinois, including this one in Illinois. Six of the seven bombs detonated, injuring four mail carriers and two residents. Each of the bombs had a note in a plastic bag, which stated, "I'm obtaining your attention in the only way I can .... more attention-getters are on the way." On May 7, 2002, the FBI and Nevada state authorities arrested Luke Helder, a 21-year-old college student, who confessed to being responsible for all of the bombs.



United States

North America

region/u.s. state:



Attack Information
Type of Attack (more) Bombing/Explosion
Successful Attack? (more) Yes
Target Information (more)
Target Type: Government (General)
Name of Entity U.S. Postal Service
Specific Description US Mail Boxes
Nationality of Target United States
Target Type: Private Citizens & Property
Name of Entity Civilians
Specific Description Civilians in the United States Midwest
Nationality of Target United States
Additional Information
Hostages No
Ransom No
Property Damage Yes
Extent of Property Damage Minor (likely < $1 million)
Value of Property Damage Unknown
Weapon Information
Type Sub-type
Explosives/Bombs/Dynamite Pressure Trigger
Weapon Details
The pipe bombs were assembled with steel pipes and attached to nine-volt batteries and most were accompanied by antigovernment notes. They were rigged to explode when the mailbox was opened. Only six of the seven devices rigged in this manner detonated.
Additional Information
Suicide Attack?No
Part of Multiple Incident?Yes
Criterion 1 (more) Yes
Criterion 2 (more) Yes
Criterion 3 (more) Yes
Doubt Terrorism Proper (more) Yes
Alternate Designation (more) Other Crime Type
Perpetrator Group Information
Group Name Claimed Responsibility
Anti-Government extremists Yes (Confirmed: Unknown; Mode: Personal claim)
Perpetrator Statistics
Number of Perpetrators 1
Number of Captured Perpetrators 1
Casualty Information
Total Number of Casualties 0 Fatalities / 1 Injured
Total Number of Fatalities 0
Number of U.S. Fatalities 0
Number of Perpetrator Fatalities 0
Total Number of Injured 1
Number of U.S. Injured 1
Number of Perpetrators Injured 0
"Crime: Pipe Bombs Strike Mailboxes in Midwest," Facts on File World News Digest, May 15, 2002.
"Student, 21, Is Arrested in Nevada in 5-State Bombing Spree." New York Times, May 8, 2002.
"More pipe bombs found in mailboxes throughout Midwest," ABC News, May 6, 2002.