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Library bomb? ‘Not me’

Suspect in September incident says that he wants ‘a fair shot’

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Tom Zajac

Tom Zajac

The man accused of detonating a small pipe bomb in the downtown Salt Lake City library says federal authorities have the wrong man.

"First of all, that's not me," Tom Zajac told the Deseret Morning News in a brief phone interview proclaiming his innocence from the Weber County Jail, where he is incarcerated.

Zajac, 53, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a series of charges linked to the Sept. 15 bombing at the Salt Lake City Main Library. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Zajac contacted a Deseret Morning News reporter on Wednesday afternoon, saying he wanted "a fair shot." He spoke quickly and a few times was interrupted at the jail before abruptly ending the phone call.

"I'll have been found guilty for some of the things I didn't do," he said.

Zajac acknowledged being in the library "within 28 hours" of the bombing.

"I was studying the Mormon religion," he said.

Zajac said he should be on library surveillance cameras from the day before the bomb went off. He said the description that federal authorities are relying upon for their suspect is not him. In a complaint filed in federal court Oct. 27, police described the bomber as a dark haired "heavyset white male, wearing a green polo shirt."

"I'm not fat. I'm not heavy set. I don't have any kind of a belly," he said, describing himself as a "reasonably fit gray-haired gentleman."

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives are using eyewitness accounts, video surveillance, an Illinois police photograph and a fingerprint to link Zajac to the bombing.

On Sept. 15, a heavyset man walked in the library's west entrance carrying a white paper Arby's fast food bag. Surveillance tapes showed the man going in and out of bathrooms on the second and third floors, "as if he had not found the location to be suitable for some purpose," ATF agent Michael Minichino wrote in an affidavit filed with the complaint.

The bomb went off on the third floor of the library, blowing a hole in a window. No one was injured, but hundreds were evacuated.

The ATF said the bomb was made from galvanized pipe, explosive powder and a hobby-style rocket igniter from a store called the Hobby Lobby. A fingerprint found by ATF agents on the rocket igniter remnants was run through a national crime computer and came back with Zajac's name, authorities said.

Zajac said he believes Salt Lake City police and federal authorities have the wrong man and at trial won't produce the right surveillance tapes showing him in the library.

"I wasn't dressed like that," he said about the description of the bomber. He also worried that what a jury would see is an edited-down version making him look guilty.

Asked if he had told his defense attorney about the tape, Zajac was critical of him.

"I don't have a lawyer. I've got a state-appointed guy...," he said. "The only time I see him is in the courthouse."

Zajac's defense lawyer declined to comment on his client's jailhouse interview.

"He's choosing to ignore my advice," Manny Garcia said Wednesday. "I told him not to talk to anybody."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah declined to comment on the case.

Zajac is formally charged with six counts, including attempted damaging and destroying a building by an explosive device; using or carrying a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence; possession of an unregistered destructive device; possession of a destructive device following a domestic violence conviction; wilfully using the mail to threaten the use of explosives and transportation of explosives in interstate commerce with the intent to damage and destroy a building. He is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 29.

Zajac, who is from Illinois, is also considered a suspect in a Sept. 1 bombing at a commuter rail station in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale. A small device went off in a garbage can at a Metra station. No one was injured.

Investigators have said the device is similar to what went off at the Salt Lake City library. Threatening notes sent to the police chiefs of Hinsdale and Salt Lake City also link the cases.

Police in the suburb of Downers Grove have called him a "person of interest" for a pipe bomb found in a concrete planter there in 2004.

Asked about the Illinois incidents before he hung up, Zajac told the Deseret Morning News: "I don't know anything about those."

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com