Over 20 years ago, a 21-year-old man named Luke Helder drove across the United States planting homemade pipe bombs in mailboxes. While no casualties resulted in his crime spree, numerous people were injured and Helder remains incarcerated to this day.

While the story didn't make headlines in the same way that other domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski's crimes did, many people were affected including a resident of Salida, Colorado who was targeted, as well as local law enforcement involved in the case.

Why Did the Smiley Face Bomber Target a Colorado Mailbox?

Prior to his crime spree, Helder was a college student and musician with an open disdain for the United States Government. One day, Helder embarked on a road trip across the country where he would plant 18 bombs in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Texas, and Colorado. When mapped out, the targets form a smiley face shape.

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On May 6, 2002, a pipe bomb was discovered in the mailbox of a retired police officer who was residing in Salida. Following the discovery, local law enforcement relocated the bomb to a shooting range outside of town where the bomb squad and the FBI eventually detonated it.

Whether Helder knowingly targeted the retired police officer or simply landed in Salida to help complete his smiley face is unclear.

Interestingly, Helder was pulled over by police multiple times during the crime spree for failing to wear a seatbelt and speeding, including once in Colorado, but was let go each time.

Helder was arrested on May 7, 2002, in rural Nevada and was eventually deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. Instead of being sent to prison for his crimes, Helder was admitted to the Federal Bureau of Prisons mental health center where he remains to this day.

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