FBI Still Hasn't Found DNC, RNC Pipe Bomb-Maker Months After Jan. 6 Capitol Riot More than 400 people are charged in the Jan. 6 riot, but one suspect remains elusive to law enforcement: the person who left bombs near the Democratic and Republican national committee headquarters.

What We Know About The Suspect Who Planted Bombs Before The Capitol Riot

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Authorities have charged hundreds of people for allegedly participating in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but one person still eludes them, the person who placed two explosive devices in Washington, D.C., the night before. Here are Tim Mak and Dina Temple-Raston from NPR's Investigations unit.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: The crime the FBI is trying to solve happened between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. That's when authorities believe the suspect planted two pipe bombs just blocks from the Capitol.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: The suspect was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, a COVID mask and expensive sneakers. They were Nike Air Max Speed Turf with a yellow logo.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Surveillance cameras captured the figure walking through a Capitol Hill neighborhood the night before the January 6 riot.

MAK: One of the bombs was placed on a park bench near the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, the other behind Republican Party headquarters. And surveillance footage caught the suspect walking.

MIKE NIRENBERG: Look at how close their feet are to each other. So that is a narrow base of gate.

MAK: That's Dr. Mike Nirenberg, who wrote the textbook on forensic gait analysis. He helps identify people based on how they walk. He's watching along with us as we review surveillance video from that night.

NIRENBERG: Immediately, what you notice is the arm swing of the person on that left arm. There's not a lot of rotation in their upper half of their body, their torso.

MAK: The FBI has asked for help finding someone who walks like this.

TEMPLE-RASTON: The explosive devices they found were made from 1-by-8-inch galvanized steel pipes plumbers typically use. And they had plastic kitchen timers mounted on top, the kind you spin around to set. The FBI said the explosive inside was homemade black powder, which can be a mix of just about anything that will ignite. Typically, it includes saltpeter and sulfur and gunpowder. The FBI is yet to say exactly what explosive was in these particular devices. Barry Black is a retired FBI special agent and master bomb technician. He helped investigate the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and he says these new devices were dangerous.

BARRY BLACK: What I think would be accurate to say, given the information we have, is this is a very hazardous device that could kill people.

TEMPLE-RASTON: He began talking us through the publicly released evidence on the January 5 bomber.

BLACK: The paper clip is designed to serve as part of a switch. So it looks from this image that there may be some wires attached wrapped around the dial, the part you turn to set the time.

MAK: The reason we know anything at all about an open FBI investigation is because law enforcement has repeatedly turned to the public for clues. And they are offering a reward, which has risen from $50,000 to $100,000. Steven D'Antuono is the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, and he asked for help this way.


STEVEN D'ANTUONO: We still believe there is someone out there who has information that they may not have realized was significant until now.

MAK: They want to know if the public is aware of individuals who acted suspiciously leading up to January 5. Did they know someone who purchased multiple kitchen timers or maybe showed an unusual interest in explosives?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Without a suspect in custody, it can be difficult to determine motive. Steven Sund, who was the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police during the riots, testified before Congress that he believes the devices were likely meant as a diversion.


STEVEN SUND: And then also the fact that we were dealing with two pipe bombs that were specifically, you know, set right off the edge of our perimeter to what I suspect draw resources away. I think there was a significant coordination with this attack.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Whatever the motive, the suspect knew enough to conceal his or her identity.

DOUG KOUNS: You can see the person's wearing gloves. They seem to be familiar with the area. They probably know there's cameras here and there and have really just covered their tracks.

MAK: That's Doug Kouns. He spent 22 years in the FBI and focused on counterterrorism after 9/11. Despite covering their tracks, Kouns says that just one mistake could yield a forensics bonanza.

KOUNS: I've worked some cases with some similarities where everything was covered, but they made one mistake. Like, they used a trash bag to hide the device in and tied a knot in it. We got a partial fingerprint from inside the knot. So it's that meticulous, tedious forensic investigation that will crack something like that.

MAK: It's been more than three months since the suspect planted these explosive devices. With all the resources the FBI has, they haven't been able to make an arrest. But Barry Black, the Oklahoma City bomb investigator, says it just takes time.

BLACK: You know, we've had bombing investigations where it would be 10, 15, 20 years before someone was indicted.

MAK: Of course, the FBI is hoping for a faster resolution. I'm Tim Mak.

TEMPLE-RASTON: And I'm Dina Temple-Raston. NPR News.


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