Over the past ten days at least eight homemade bombs have been discovered near San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles.
Two exploded. And although no one was killed or seriously injured, the spate of bomb reports has many people in California and beyond wondering: Just what is going on?
Nationally, the number of reported bombing incidents fell 18% in 1995, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms does not expect an increase in the 1996 statistics, which are not yet compiled. But this year seems to be starting off with far too many incidents. And that worries some.
Bombs are the "in thing" says Thomas Blomberg, criminologist at Florida State University. What seems to be a key factor "is the awareness of the bomb being an effective terror device that gains absolute national press."
The upcoming trial of Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing and the arrest of Ted Kacznski in the Unabomber case has focused media attention on bombings.
So have several incidents in the past month.
The year began with two molotov cocktails thrown at an abortion clinic in Tulsa on new Year's Day. Two weeks later, three bombs were mailed to a Saudi Newspaper's New York office, forcing the evacuation of the United Nations Plaza. The paper's Washington D. C. office had been the target of earlier mail bombs.
Three days after that, two bombs exploded near an Atlanta abortion clinic.
Then last week came the California bombings.
In Vallejo, police found 30 sticks of dynamite in a backpack lying against the wall of a public library where police keep some evidence. The next day a single stick of dynamite damaged three ATMs at a Wells Fargo Bank. Thursday, a bomb blew a three foot hole in the Solano County courthouse.
Kevin Lee Robinson, 29, an ex-convict, turned himself in Monday. Police have arrested five other men, saying they amassed more than 500 pounds of dynamite.
Authorities say Robinson wanted to disrupt the Solano County court system, where he was to go to trial Monday on cocaine charges. He was facing a life sentence under the three-strikes and you're out law.
In San Diego, three letter bombs were mailed to an FBI office, a waste treatment company and the home of a federal worker. Police searched the Chula Vista home of Dave McGruer and emerged with armloads of weapons and ammunition. Police arrested his brother, Graham McGruer, but released him Monday saying they didn't have enough evidence to link him to the bombs.
The FBI scheduled a news conference Monday and then canceled it without explanation. Officials declined to say what position Dave McGruer held or if he was a target or a suspect.
In Malibu, a 15 year old boy received minor injuries Sunday when one of two pipe bombs in his bedroom exploded. Police have not released his name or other details concerning the incident.
Rather than some statewide conspiracy, the clusters of bombings in California seem to reflect a national fascination with explosive devices.
The number of criminal bombings nationally has risen sharply since the 2,074 bombings in 1975, at the time a record.
Bombings peaked in 1994 at 3,163 incidents --- about 60 per week nationwide. Motives included vandalism, homicide, extortion, fraud and protest.
Ti's now easier than ever to find out how to make a bomb, as easy as downloading a file from the internet.
"It seems a lot more people are unhappy with government than ever before," said James Fyfe, a temple University Criminologist.
Throwing a brick through a window no longer seems to give the emotional relief or provoke as much public shock as a pipe bomb.
Still some dismiss the idea that bombings are more popular. Frank Bolz, a retired new York City police captain who helped develop a hostage crisis protocol, says bombings are one of several terrorist acts.
"They go into different cycles --- bombing, kidnaping, hostage taking," Bolz says. "At some point it falls off the front page onto page 4 and then the cycle moves to another form."