Police: Man sought in Aspen bomb threats is found dead | VailDaily.com

Police: Man sought in Aspen bomb threats is found dead

Contributed photoJim Blanning, the suspect in Wednesday's bomb threats at banks around Aspen, has been found dead, police said early Thursday.

ASPEN, Colorado ” A man wanted for questioning after two Aspen, Colorado banks received bomb threats and suspicious packages in holiday wrapping was found dead early Thursday, police said.

The threats shut down this resort town on New Year’s Eve, one of its busiest nights of the year as the evacuation stretched into the new year.

The man, Jim Blanning, was found dead early Thursday just east of Aspen in rural Pitkin County, said police officer Stephanie Dasaro. She couldn’t say how he died or exactly where his body was found.

Police cleared a 16-block area Wednesday afternoon after two banks reported receiving the threats and packages. Police also found clear plastic boxes containing holiday wrapped packages and pizza boxes on a black sled in a downtown alley.

Police released surveillance tape from one bank showing 71-year-old Blanning and asked the public to help find him. Dasaro said the man was recognized quickly by police as a former Aspen resident, though he was living in Denver.

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It was unclear Thursday what the packages contained. Dasaro said they were destroyed early Thursday, but she could not say whether they contained explosives.

Police said a downtown Wells Fargo Bank first discovered a package with a threatening note at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. A nearby Vectra Bank reported a similar package minutes later.

The notes indicated a “credible threat to the community,” the Aspen Police Department said in a statement.

The evacuation lasted until about 4 a.m. Thursday. It was not clear how many people were evacuated, but the American Red Cross helped in the effort.

The events put a damper on festivities in the resort town, a popular New Year’s Eve destination that typically draws tens of thousands of people. A fireworks show was pushed back from 8:30 p.m. until midnight and then canceled altogether. Many bars, restaurants and nightclubs that had planned festivities to ring in the New Year fell in the evacuation zone and had to close.

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