Federal Jury Condemns Man of Alexandria and Monroe Bombings – L’Observateur

Federal jury convicts Man of Alexandria and Monroe bombings

Published Sunday 20 November 2022 at 11:00 am

Alexandria, La. Daniel Aikens40, of Alexandria, Louisiana, has been convicted on 8 counts of illegal charges related to explosives, the United States said Attorney Brandon B. Brown. The jury found Aikens guilty of 3 counts of manufacturing a destructive device, 3 counts of possessing a destructive device in violation of the NFA, 1 count of using an explosive to commit a federal crime, and 1 count of transmitting maliciously false information and wills on March 3, 2008. Convicted by Chief District Judge Dee D. Drell in March 2023.

“What this investigation demonstrates is that when federal, state and local law enforcement partners work together to investigate heinous criminal activity, justice is inevitable in most cases. This is an extremely dangerous individual and we are fortunate that no one else was injured. All investigators at all levels, talented prosecutors, and the courageous victims and witnesses who faced Aikens in court played a critical role in helping us get this conviction. The Western District of Louisiana is truly a safe place today because of this guilty verdict, and given Aikens’ actions coupled with his failure to accept responsibility, we will indeed seek a lengthy sentence,” prosecutor Brown said.

The government presented evidence in court that an explosion occurred at Cloyd’s Beauty School in Monroe, Louisiana on September 12, 2019. The victim was placing boxes in a commercial trash can when the explosion occurred, suffering burns to her hands and face. Remnants of the device were collected by agents for analysis by the ATF lab and included a rocket motor commonly sold in hobby shops and a pressure cooker. Law enforcement couldn’t identify a suspect at the time, but obtained video footage from Hobby Lobby in West Monroe, LA showing a black man buying a rocket motor two days before the blast. Agents also collected numerous items for DNA analysis, including a piece of tape that was on the device. Additionally, on December 20, 2019, officials responded to reports of an explosion at a Texaco gas station in Alexandria, Louisiana. 911 dispatch workers received a call from an unidentified male caller who indicated that an explosion had occurred.

On the morning of January 2, 2020, a Payday Today employee in MacArthur Drive, Alexandria, Louisiana received a call from cell phone number 716-563-4031. The caller first spoke to a member of staff about a lost bunch of keys. While the employee was looking for the keys in the parking lot, an explosive device detonated in a garbage can near the building. The caller said he caused the explosion and asked for $10,000 in cash. The caller further indicated that a second device was at the scene and that he would detonate it if the officer failed to do so. The caller then gave the employee’s home address and explained that he knew that she had three children. He then threatened to kill her and her family if she didn’t comply. The caller then asked why the employee was going there instead of to the bank. This led the employee to believe the caller was nearby and was watching her actions. The clerk informed the caller that she needed a bottle of water, but once inside the store, she panicked and the call was dropped. Ultimately, the employee did not provide the assassin with any money. Investigators found fragments of metal pipes among the debris collected at the scene, which indicates a pipe bomb explosion.

During the investigation, law enforcement contacted employees at a nearby gas station. The gas station is located within approximately 400 feet of Payday Today and was identified as the ideal surveillance location to view all activity on PayDay Today. Surveillance footage retrieved from the gas station showed a white Jeep Cherokee at the site. A tall, unidentified black man entered the store and made a small purchase just before the explosion and called PayDay Today. Surveillance footage even showed the man looking towards PayDay Today while on the phone inside the store. A BOLO alert was issued to law enforcement in the Alexandria area with screenshots of a white Jeep Cherokee taken by the gas station and other businesses near the bombing on Payday Today. Four days later, the Rapides Township Sheriff’s Office located the Jeep Cherokee and initiated a traffic stop. The driver was identified as Daniel Aikens and matched the description of the subject who was present at the gas station just before the explosion. Investigators also secured a search warrant for Aiken’s home and, as part of the search, found damage to the kitchen area consistent with an explosion and what appeared to be fragments of galvanized pipe and blast debris that indicated a pipe bomb blast.

Upon arresting Aikens, agents secured his cellphone and found that he had been texting a friend about the Monroe bombing. Agents later interviewed this friend, and the friend stated that Aikens communicated with him after the Monroe and Texaco bombings. He even stated that Aikens called him from his personal cell phone the morning of the blast and allowed him to overhear him calling Payday Today from the “bomb phone.” Forensic examination of Aikens’ personal cell phone revealed Google Street View images of the area around Ferrand Street near Cloyd’s Beauty School in Monroe, Louisiana. The phone’s web history showed a search for “how to make a pressure cooker bomb” and included a possible PDF download. A piece of black electrical tape was recovered from the pressure cooker device and contained a mix of a known DNA profile that was found to be 1 trillion times more likely to be from Aikens. Cellphone and 911 records confirmed that the “bomb phone” was also used to call emergency services during the Texaco explosion on December 20, 2019. The 911 record shows a male caller (whom law enforcement identified as Aikens) pointing out that he was passing , there was an explosion, and calling law enforcement. Location data from Aiken’s personal phone showed that he was visiting multiple stores in Lafayette, LA, the day before the Texaco blast. Specifically, it showed Aikens stopping near Home Depot, Academy Sporting Goods, and Hobby Lobby. Home Depot surveillance video showed Aikens entering the store at 12:33 p.m. Twenty-three minutes later he bought a drill, two metal pipe caps, a steel pipe and glue.

Aikens’ cellphone was found a short time later near Academy Sporting Goods. Around the time Aikens was in business, agents were checking sales receipts. They found a £2 receipt at 1:39pm. from Hodgdon H335, rifle powder. Included in the same purchase were two children’s rod and reel combos and a ladies rod and reel combo. All three fishing combinations were later picked up by Aikens’ girlfriend, who shared that she and her two children had received the fishing gear as Christmas gifts from Aikens. Aikens then traveled to the nearby Hobby Lobby. A December 19, 2019 review of surveillance video showed that Aikens appeared to be buying rocket motor starters. Aikens returned to the store on December 21, 2019 and made another purchase identical to the one made on December 19.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI, Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, Alexandria Police Department, US Marshal’s Service, Louisiana State Police and Alexandria Fire Department were investigating the case with the assistance of the Alexandria Public Safety Commissioner and the Office of the Mayor of the City of Alexandria. Assistant US Attorney Jamilla A. Bynog, LaDonte A. Murphy and Daniel J. McCoy are prosecuting the case.