A man arrested in a bombing outside a Colorado Springs NAACP office told investigators he was targeting an accountant he believed also worked in the building, not the civil rights organization, according to court documents filed Friday.
Thaddeus Cheyenne Murphy, 44, was arrested Thursday and is charged with arson in the Jan. 6 bombing outside the building that houses the NAACP chapter, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado said in a statement. A container of gasoline that had been placed next to the pipe bomb did not ignite, and no one was injured.
According to a criminal complaint, Murphy told investigators he was angry because his accountant, who he said was Steve DeHaven, wouldn’t return his phone calls. Murphy said he believed his accountant destroyed his tax records — which he needed as part of a bankruptcy proceeding — and the bombing was meant to be a warning, according to the complaint.
DeHaven died in June in Mesa, Arizona, the Associated Press reported. It is not clear if Murphy knew that he was dead. DeHaven pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns in 2010 and he was sentenced to three years in federal prison.
Prosecutors said in a statement that the motive in the bombing is still under investigation. Investigators have not said that the NAACP was the target.
The president of the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP said he was skeptical that the target was an accountant. There was an old sign for an accountant on the building, he said, but no accountant worked there since at least 1999, he said.
"This guy is a criminal and criminals lie. He's looking for a way to get out of this because he's facing [prison] time," Henry D. Allen Jr., president of the Colorado chapter of the NAACP, told NBC News. " … There are only two offices in this building, a [black] barbershop/hair salon and the Colorado Springs chapter of the NAACP."
In addition to arson, Murphy is charged with being a felon in possession of firearms. Investigators found at least seven firearms and road flares during search of Murphy's home Thursday, the complaint said. He could face 15 years in prison and fines up to $500,000, the statement said.
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— Elisha Fieldstadt and Chandra Thomas Whitfield