Investigators and analysts, relying on vast amounts of evidence, believe the man who planted the crude nail-laced pipe bombs in Centennial Olympic Park early Saturday probably was a rank amateur, unconnected to any group, seeking attention that he fails to attract in his everyday life.
FBI special agent David Tubbs described the bombing suspect Sunday as a “very strange person,” giving public view to the widely held theory in law enforcement that he is a troubled man who was pursuing no rational cause when he brought death and destruction to the Olympics.
As authorities completed their search of the park, officials said the venue will reopen Tuesday morning with “additional security measures” that were not disclosed.
Meanwhile, the FBI shipped a copy of the 911 tape of the man’s voice - notifying Atlanta police of an imminent explosion - to its laboratory in Washington, where investigators will try to determine the caller’s education by his enunciation of words and probe other parts of his personality by his inflection and tone. Officials have said he is white and American, with no distinguishable accent.
“A lot of things can be gleaned from that tape,” said special agent Paul Miller.
Based on eyewitnesses’ accounts, Tubbs said, the FBI is developing several composite sketches of a man who made a call before the bombing from a pay telephone near a Days Inn, about two blocks away.
“However,” he said, “(the sketches) are not to be released at this time until we have further evaluated the information.”
Both publicly and privately, FBI agents are ebullient about the amount of evidence they have to guide them in the case, from the crucial 911 tape to the possibility of fingerprints and footprints at the bank of pay telephones to the materials in the knapsack that held the device. Bombers, even amateurs, nearly always leave signatures on their devices that eventually help guide investigators, experts say.
In addition, authorities report they have received more than 600 calls on their hotline, many of them from people in the park, and they have accepted amateur videotapes from people in hopes of spotting someone carrying the knapsack that held the bomb. There also were four security cameras in the area that may have captured an image of the man, and those tapes are being reviewed, Tubbs said.
“There are a lot of different things here you don’t have in a traditional case,” Miller said. “And you already have a huge number of law enforcement people here. There are an awful lot of people who are optimistic because of all this.”
In all, there are more than 900 FBI agents working the case, White House chief of staff Leon Panetta said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With David Brinkley.”
The evidence will help officials in two general ways, according to officials. At one level, physical evidence such as fingerprints and bomb parts could start a chain reaction that would lead directly to a suspect, all pursued by traditional police work.
At a more ethereal level, investigators have begun piecing together the themes of the case, in addition to physical evidence such as the telephone call and the bombing materials, to develop a psychological profile of the suspect. In Washington, FBI investigators already have begun such an effort, officials said.
While FBI agents declined to discuss such things, other analysts said the primitive nature of the bomb, combined with the timing of the explosion - in the early hours of the morning, after the Games were over for the day - indicated a minimal amount of planning and a lack of sophistication on the part of the bomber.
“It’s an amateur,” said James Alan Fox, a noted criminal justice professor at Northeastern University. “An organized terrorist group would be much more likely to have set a more deadly bomb and at a different time and different place.”
The fact that a telephone call was made to police before the explosion is an indication that the suspect was seeking attention and almost making a game of his efforts, authorities and analysts said.
“The phone call is about attention,” Fox said. “There wasn’t any demand: ‘Do this or else.’ He was just calling attention to himself. It is for thrill or for the sense of importance.”