Officials working on bomb case
Questions remain as local, state and federal authorities continue to investigate the Penn State Altoona student accused of keeping a suitcase of bomb-making materials in his Juniata apartment.
Vladislav Miftakhov, 18, was arrested Friday by Altoona police after officers allegedly found a small marijuana growing operation in his apartment and two explosive devices, both with fuses, as well as suspected raw ingredients used to make bombs.
Authorities are looking into who will prosecute the case.
“Our office is reviewing the matter thoroughly and remains in close contact with federal, state and local investigators,” Pittsburgh-based U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said in a statement Monday about the case.
Deputy Blair County District Attorney Jackie Bernard said county prosecutors have been working with federal authorities on the matter and said at this point that there is no threat to the public.
FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba said on Monday that agents are “out there conducting a thorough investigation” on the Miftakhov case.
It has “yet to be defined” whose investigation it is, she said. For now, “we’re a team,” she said. “We’re basically actively assisting them.”
It’s still to be determined whether it is a terrorism case, Kochamba said. “It’s part of the FBI’s mission to protect the country against terrorism. We take any potential threat extremely seriously.”
Altoona police Lt. Jeffrey Pratt said Monday the investigation remained ongoing with federal agents looking further into Miftakhov and possible motives and intentions for the suspected explosives while the state police analyze the materials seized from Miftakhov’s home. Pratt said police were still investigating the viability and destructive capabilities of the two intact devices found, as well as the potential for the other materials found by police.
Miftakhov told police “he was going to blow things up” but didn’t elaborate. Later, when the Russian citizen who lists San Carlos, Calif., as his hometown was interviewed by police, he claimed he had previously set off a small device in California but had not detonated anything in Pennsylvania, according to the affidavit of probable cause.
Miftakhov also claimed he didn’t intend to “blow anything up” but rather had planned to set of the devices in a remote field, police noted in court records.
Pratt said Miftakhov’s apartment was sparsely furnished, so once police had permission from the suspect to search, officers were drawn to a suitcase in the home.
Two officers, Cpl. Julie Cruse and Patrolman Christopher Angermeier, have prior military experience, and suspected the contents were bomb-related, Pratt said.
Angermeier recognized the items in the suitcase, including potassium perchlorate and atomized magnesium, as materials used in making bombs, and the state police were called, Pratt said.
“He was able to take a look at it and tell what it was,” said Pratt.
Miftakhov, who remains in Blair County Prison in lieu of $500,000 cash bail and is charged with felony counts of possessing weapons of mass destruction and risking a catastrophe along with related misdemeanors, has been placed on interim suspension, campus spokeswoman Shari Routch said. He is restricted from being on campus property, and his course registration has been put on hold, affecting the flow of federal grant money he may have been receiving.
Routch said he has the ability to appeal his interim suspension through the campus director of student affairs.
It’s not clear what brought Miftakhov from California where he graduated from high school, to Altoona. Penn State’s main campus in State College and its Altoona campus have strong engineering programs, Miftakhov’s course of study.
Mirror staff writers William Kibler and Russ O’Reilly contributed to this report.