FRESNO — Today a federal grand jury indicted the man alleged to be responsible for pipe bombs found at a Chowchilla Shell Gas Station on March 28, and at the Crossroads Christian School in Madera on May 4, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
The nine-count indictment returned against Richard Wilson Key, 37, of Raymond, charges him with crimes associated with the possession and use of three pipe bombs, including two counts of attempting to damage property by use of explosives, two counts of carrying a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, three counts of unlawfully making a destructive device, possession of destructive device, and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
According to court documents, on March 28, Chowchilla police responded to a report of a possible pipe bomb in a trash can by a Shell gas station. Inside the trash can was a silver pipe with a cap on both ends. Written on the top of one of the caps were the words, “PULL TO OPEN,” and a smiley face was drawn on the bottom of the cap. When the pipe was rendered safe, an inspection showed that it was set to be triggered with a nine‑volt battery that would spark when the plastic center piece on one of the caps was pulled. According to the criminal complaint, the “PULL TO OPEN” and the smiley face drawn on the bomb demonstrated that this bomb was manufactured for the purpose of killing or seriously injuring an unsuspecting victim.
On May 4, a similar device was found by children at a private grade school on property owned by the Grace Community Church. A third destructive device was found in Key’s possession when he was arrested by law enforcement on May 8.
“Thanks to the work of the federal agents and local law enforcement officers whatever plans Key had were disrupted and no one was injured,” stated U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Through these partnerships, we will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who threaten the safety of our residents.”
“Luck was on our side as no serious injuries or fatalities were incurred during either incident,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento FBI. “The FBI responds swiftly with all available resources when individuals act with such blatant disregard for life, especially when innocent children have been placed at risk. By selecting busy public areas, it was clear that the devices were planted with an intent to cause death or serious bodily injury. The FBI will work closely with the US Attorney’s Office to ensure Key will face the fullest extent of federal prosecution. I am grateful for our dedicated agents who stopped this serial bomber before he was able to strike again.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and the Chowchilla Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen A. Servatius is prosecuting the case.
Key is in custody and is scheduled for arraignment on May 23. If convicted, he faces the following statutory penalties: at least 30 years in prison and up to life for each count of using and carrying a destructive device; and at least 20 years and up to life in prison for using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence; a term of between five and 20 years in prison on each count of the attempted use of explosives to damage property; and a term of up to 10 years in prison for each of the three counts of making a destructive device and the one count of possessing destructive devices. In addition, Key could be fined up to $250,000 for each count. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.