Person of the Week: Lucas Helder

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Helder escorted to court in Reno, Nev.

Alleged pipe bomber Lucas Helder currently being held without bail in Iowa, is described by friends, classmates, family — even the police — as a well-behaved, polite, serious and totally unremarkable college student. "When I talked with him, he shook my hand and called me sir," a Nevada sheriff told the Associated Press.

This portrait should surprise no one, given that just about every person who launches a self-aggrandizing anti-government terror campaign is described in precisely those terms. We are accustomed to hearing the neighbors exclaim over the sudden and precipitous demise of the "nice" young man, who visited his grandparents regularly and mowed the lawn without being asked. And so, for fitting so neatly into both our preconceived notions of "domestic terrorist" and "perfectly pleasant boy next door," Lucas John Helder is our Person of the Week.

The explosives were accompanied by the following text (typographical and grammatical errors are from the original):

"Mailboxes are exploding! Why, you ask?
Attention people.
You do things because you can and want (desire) to If the government controls what you want to do, they control what you can do. If you are under the impression that death exists, and you fear it, you do anything to avoid it. (This is the same way pain operates. Naturally we strive to avoid negative emotion/pain.)
You allow yourself to fear death!
World authorities allowed, and still allow you to fear death!
In avoiding death you are forced to conform, if you fail to conform, you suffer mentally and physically. (Are world powers utilizing the natural survival instinct in a way that allows them to capitalize on the people?)
To "live" (avoid death) in this society you are forced to conform/slave away. I?m here to help you realize/ understand that you will live no matter what! It is up to you people to open your hearts and minds. There is no such thing as death.
The people I?ve dismissed from this reality are not at all dead. Conforming to the boundaries, and restrictions imposed by the government only reduces the substance in your lives. When 1% of the nation controls 99% of the nations total wealth, is it a wonder why there are control problems?
The United States strives to provide freedom for their people. Do we really have personal freedom? I?ve lived here for many years, and I see much limitation. Does the definition of freedom include limitation? I?ve learned about the history of various civilizations in history, and I see more and more limitation. Do you people enjoy this trend of limitation? If not, change it!
As long as you are uninformed about death you will continue to say "how high", when the government tells you to "jump". As long as the government is uninformed about death they will continue tell you to "jump" Is the government uninformed about death, or are they pretending?
You have been missing how things are, for very long. I?m obtaining your attention in the only way I can. More info is on its way. More "attention getters? are on the way. If I could, I would change only one person, unfortunately the resources are not accessible. It seems killing a single famous person would get the same media attention as killing numerous un-famous humans. There is less risk of being detained, associated with dismissing certain people.
Someone Who Cares
PS. More info. will be delivered to various locations around the country."

Helder is a mystery only in that he is so completely lacking in mystery; like most young men his age, he had quirks, like proselytizing to his friends about religion and philosophy. He was good at using tools, welding, things like that. He once got written up in college for smoking marijuana. Hardly the type of personality that should keep parents up at night.

Since their son's arrest Tuesday, Helder's parents have likely done nothing but sit up at night, wondering how their son could have harbored so much they didn't recognize. They will have plenty of time in courtrooms to contemplate their son's metamorphosis. Helder has racked up an exhaustive list of charges; in Iowa and Illinois, he's charged with using a pipe bomb in a crime of violence and destroying property used in interstate commerce. Conviction in the Iowa charges alone could mean life in prison, but there's more: He was charged in Nebraska with interstate transportation of explosives — and to top it all off, he faces a firearms charge in Nevada.

He covered a lot of ground during his five-day odyssey — 3,400 miles, to be exact, leaving a trail of 18 pipe bombs. The devices, which Helder planted in mailboxes, injured six people, spraying BBs and nails in a burst of smokeless gunpowder. (In one more bizarre twist, Helder says he was planning to place the bombs in locations to form a sort of geographical smiley face).

Helder has cheerfully — some authorities say manically — confessed to his crimes, leaving his attorneys with a dwindling list of options for mounting a defense. Will they try an insanity plea? It's possible. It seems Helder knew what he was doing: he reportedly called his father and left notes for his roommate, tipping them off about his crime spree; he also sent a warning letter/manifesto to the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The question is whether he knew that what he was doing was wrong.

Meanwhile, Helder's bewildered parents are tearfully playing catch-up with their son, trying to maintain contact between prison transfers. "We told him we love him," they declared after speaking with Luke on Thursday. "And we're praying for the families of the victims." Let's hope somebody's doing the same for the Helders.