February 14, 2002 Posted: 4:47 AM EST (0947 GMT)
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) — The FBI has issued an alert to 350 law enforcement agencies in the southwest and Salt Lake City for potential Valentine teddy bear bombs after a suspicious transaction at a Wal-Mart last month.
Law enforcement sources said authorities also were on the alert at airports in case the suspected bear-bombs might be carried onto airplanes on Valentine’s Day.
The FBI said a clean-shaven male, possibly of Middle Eastern descent, purchased nine Valentine teddy bears, 20 inches tall, and 14 canisters of propane, 9 inches tall, small enough to fit inside the teddy bears. The man also bought 12 packets of BBs — small, round projectiles usually fired from air guns.
He paid in cash on January 15 at the Wal-Mart in Stevenson Ranch, California, about 25 miles north of Los Angeles. He left in a white GMC or Chevrolet delivery truck.
“After September 11, that purchase warrants that we take a closer look,” FBI spokesman Matthew McLaughlin said. Authorities were notified February 4, McLaughlin said.
Authorities emphasized that the man has committed no crime, but the purchase has raised suspicions and authorities want to question him about it.
At the same time, authorities want Americans to be on the lookout for suspicious packages on Valentine’s Day due to the level of concern over the purchase.
The man was captured on surveillance tape and his picture was included in the alert to law enforcement agencies.