Watch CBSN Live

Docs: Colo. bomb suspect's small stature stood out in surveillance video

DENVER --  A California man suspected of leaving a homemade explosive outside a police station in  the small Colorado mountain town of Nederland was arrested after being spotted on surveillance video from a store where he bought a cellphone used in the device, according to a criminal complaint filed in a U.S. District Court in Colorado Oct. 15.

David Michael Ansberry, 64, of California, who is 3 feet 6 inches tall, was identified as a suspect after police remembered seeing someone who matched his description in the area of the police station the morning the bomb was discovered, the document says.

A detective found the device in a backpack on Oct. 11 and brought it into the police station, believing it was lost property. Robots searched the device, and it was eventually detonated in the parking lot of the town’s main retail complex, a strip mall that houses the five-officer police department.

The device was designed to be remotely detonated using a cellphone but failed, the complaint says. Someone called the number that would trigger the detonator multiple times, according to the complaint.

The circumstances of Ansberry’s arrest over the weekend in Chicago were not immediately released. Authorities have not released a motive, and it’s unclear if he targeting police.  A law enforcement source tells CBS New senior investigate producer he was arrested getting off a plane at Midway airport, apparently attempting to flee authorities.

According to the complaint, FBI agents tracked the cellphones used in the device to two stores and obtained surveillance video showing that each was purchased by a short male – later learned to be three feet, six inches tall – who had a ponytail, wore a baseball hat and was using crutches. The man’s description tipped off the Nederland police chief that he had noticed someone who looked similar during evacuations from a motel across the street from the police department on the morning the bomb was discovered, the complaint says.

Using motel records, police identified Ansberry as the suspect.

Another cellphone registered to Ansberry “pinged” off of the single Verizon cell tower that covers Nederland the morning officials found the bomb, accoring to the complaint.

J.P. Farrell, a front desk agent at The Boulder Creek Lodge, told the Associated Press Ansberry stayed at the motel for about two weeks, left, and then returned. Ansberry told him  he was in Nederland to visit an old friend who is a professor, Farrell said.

Ansberry faces a federal explosives charge.

The case rattled the mountain-ringed town of 1,500 people southwest of Boulder that is best known for its love of legal marijuana and its annual celebration of a frozen corpse that draws tens of thousands of revelers.

Town administrator Alisha Reis said residents are relieved by the arrest but questions remain.

“The community knows there has been an arrest, and that goes to calming people’s fears,” she said. “But folks are still confused as to why it occurred. Who is this person? And why would he have done it here?”

Nederland is refuge for artists and hippies that has long thrived on its embrace of outsiders.

Residents have recently complained about homeless campers and wanderers who live off the land. Two people camping near an area popular with transients attracted to the laid-back community were charged this summer with accidentally sparking a fire that destroyed eight homes.

But if there is anti-police sentiment, longtime residents said it’s hard to immediately spot.