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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hinrichs' Backpack in His Lap When it Exploded, Bomb Squader Says

A home-made bomb University of Oklahoma student Joel Hinrichs created using a highly volatile combination of common chemicals was in a backpack sitting on his lap when it detonated and killed him last year, Sgt. George Mauldin told Tapscott's Copy Desk today.

"The bomb was sitting in his lap when it detonated," Mauldin said. "The body was largely intact but his head and most of both arms were missing."

Hinrichs was sitting on a park bench near OU's Oklahoma Memorial Stadium where 84,000 fans were watching the Oklahoma-Kansas State college football game Oct. 1, 2005.

Within 48 hours of the incident, FBI Joint Task Force on Terrorism and OU officials claimed Hinrichs death was a lone suicide and that there was no evidence that he was involved with any terrorist activity.

Mauldin heads the Norman Policy Department Bomb Squad and was among the first law enforcement officials on the scene of the explosion and to enter Hinrichs apartment after his death.

Mauldin said he remains uncertain whether the OU student was simply commiting suicide or was tinkering with highly dangerous explosives and died in an accidental explosion. He has seen no evidence of a Hinrichs connection to terrorist activity.

"The Medical Examiner said the official cause of death was 'unknown,' but there is an official separate category for suicide," Mauldin said.

"There were some things that say yes it was a suicide and some that say no it wasn't," Mauldin said. "You have to admit that if it was a simple suicide he went to an awful lot of trouble to do it."

Officials found several pounds of TATP, or "Mother of Satan," as it is known among Middle Eastern terrorists, in Hinrichs' apartment, as well as "a few pieces of military hardware, stuff like some 20 millimeter training rounds, some .50 caliber shells," he said.

Officials also found materials that could be used in an anti-personnel "fragmentation" explosive, but no artillery shells. "We found nothing he could have used to make a bomb," Mauldin said.

Other officials have said artillery shells were found in the apartment, as reported by The Daily Oklahoman last year:

"The younger Hinrichs had a long fascination with ammunition and bombs, his relatives and friends said. Inside his bedroom in Norman were several used metal artillery shells - the largest about 2 feet long. He had belts of used brass shell casings, a box of spent bullets and military ammo containers."

Mauldin said neither he nor Normal Policy Chief Phil Cotten were aware of the presence of journalists when the two men briefed the Norman City Council on the Hinrichs investigation earlier this week.

The council briefing was reported yesterday by The Oklahoman.