No evidence links chemist to bombing


PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The armed drifter who was arrested Friday on federal weapons charges has told investigators that he knew Timothy McVeigh, one of two men charged with the bombing of the Oklahoma federal building. But so far, investigators said yesterday, they have turned up nothing to link him to the plot.

Federal agents searched his trailer home late Friday and early yesterday and found several firearms and an apparently unused methamphetamine laboratory.

The admission by Steven G. Colbern that he knew Mr. McVeigh under his alias, Tim Tuttle, has prompted investigators to closely question Mr. Colbern.

But he has denied knowing anything about the attack, and officials said their preliminary inquiry had led them to conclude that he probably had no role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

In a brief hearing yesterday at the federal courthouse in Phoenix, Mr. Colbern was charged with being a fugitive from justice on an outstanding weapons charge in California and with resisting arrest when he was seized Friday in a small Arizona mining town.

Magistrate Barry Silverman scheduled a preliminary hearing for Tuesday on those charges.

After U.S. Attorney Janet Napolitano said the government did not want Mr. Colbern released on bail, Magistrate Silverman said that the issue of continuing Mr. Colbern's detention would also be addressed at the Tuesday hearing.

Ms. Napolitano declined to comment on any connection between Mr. Colbern's arrest and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Mr. Colbern, a husky man who wore a tan prison tunic, looked slightly bewildered as he entered the courtroom with two public defenders. He carried the lawyers' business cards in his left hand.

Magistrate Silverman read Mr. Colbern his rights and the details of the charges against him and asked him if he had the money to pay for a lawyer.

"Uh, no I don't, your honor," Mr. Colbern said softly.

Mr. Colbern, a 35-year-old laboratory research assistant from Oxnard, Calif., was arrested Friday in the high desert mining town of Oatman in northeastern Arizona. He was brought here for his arraignment on the firearms charges from last year.

The authorities said their interest in Mr. Colbern stemmed from a series of possible links to Mr. McVeigh, one of two men arrested in the April 19 bombing that killed 167 people.

Mr. Colbern was arrested after a brief struggle with federal marshals. Residents of Oatman said he had lived there for about four months, working as a dishwasher and cook's assistant at Oatman Mining Co.'s Food & Spirits restaurant.

Mr. Colbern, a former research associate in DNA studies at Cedars-Sinai Research Institute in Los Angeles, has a degree in chemistry from the University of California at Los Angeles. Federal authorities also described him as a gun lover and as having survival skills.

The authorities said a letter found among Mr. McVeigh's possessions was addressed to someone with the initials S.C., and that they had placed Mr. Colbern in Oatman, about 20 miles from Kingman, Ariz., where Mr. McVeigh had periodically stayed.

Mr. McVeigh and a former Army buddy, Terry Nichols, are being held in Oklahoma in connection with the bombing.

Daryl Warren, a restaurant owner in Oatman, said Mr. Colbern had expressed anti-government and pro-Nazi sympathies in conversations and had made passing references to the Arizona Patriots, a right-wing paramilitary group.

Mr. Warren recalled that Mr. Colbern had been out of town for two or three weeks at the time of the bombing and said, "He's only been back a couple of weeks."

"I do recall on two or three occasions politics being brought up, and he would always make references to the Third Reich," Mr. Warren said. "I was convinced that he was not too happy with our government."

Officials in Washington said they hoped that Mr. Colbern could help "clear up the mystery of John Doe No. 2," but made it clear that they did not believe he was the unidentified second man who investigators say rented the Ryder truck used in the bombing. Investigators have sought John Doe No. 2 for three weeks.

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