Sheriff: man in Aspen bomb scare intended more mayhem
ASPEN, Colorado ” A man who left four homemade bombs around Aspen, , Colorado on New Year’s Eve, forcing the evacuation of most of downtown, appeared set on more mayhem, including deaths, says the sheriff who got the man’s last letter.
Authorities say James Blanning, a 72-year-old former resident, left two gift-wrapped, gasoline bombs and notes demanding $60,000 at two banks. Two more bombs were found on a sled in an alley.
New Year’s celebrations were canceled across the mountain resort as police cleared out downtown, tracking down bombs and the culprit.
Blanning was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a few hours later east of Aspen. He wrote in a letter found in his Jeep Cherokee and addressed to Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis that he wandered around town watching the mayhem unfold after he distributed the bombs.
“I came loaded for bear as you will see,” Blanning wrote. “Could have done some serious damage. Oh-well. Too tired ” to the bone.”
He also wrote of an “ongoing black depression.”
The letter names Braudis as one of his heirs and Denver attorney Malcolm Sewell as executor.
“He intended to cause death and destruction, which is totally out of character,” Braudis told The Aspen Times. “It sounds like he was apologizing for mass murder that he intended here.”
Blanning wrote that the point of “doing the killing” was to make a statement. He had extensive knowledge of explosives from working in the mines growing up in Aspen. His bombs contained 5-gallon plastic bladders of gasoline and were fitted with cellular phone actuators and mousetraps.
“If he truly wanted to take out a lot of people he could have,” Braudis said.
Authorities and people who knew Blanning say the former competitive skier, truck driver and logger was embittered by the changes in Aspen, which became a draw for the rich and famous.
In 1994 Blanning climbed atop the county courthouse, tied a noose around his neck and threatened suicide before police talked him down seven hours later. He said afterward that he was protesting the “elitists” of Aspen and was angry about a 1990s Colorado Supreme Court ruling about a mining claim.
Blanning went to prison after he was convicted in 1996 of fraud and other charges in the sale of mining claims in the Aspen area.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, a former newspaper reporter and county commissioner, scrutinized Blanning’s method for obtaining mining claims in the area. Authorities took Ireland to a safe location on New Year’s Eve because of a threatening note by Blanning.
Braudis said he planned Monday to look at a “hate list” of people Blanning considered enemies and other items reportedly found in the man’s Jeep.