Expert: OU student blew himself up accidentally

AP - 3/1/2006 5:52 AM - Updated 3/1/2006 5:52 AM

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ A University of Oklahoma student who blew himself up outside a packed Gaylord Family/Oklahoma Memorial Stadium probably didn't commit suicide, a Norman police bomb expert said.

``I believe he accidentally blew himself up,'' Sgt. George Mauldin said Tuesday of Joel Henry Hinrichs III, a 21-year-old engineering student who died in the explosion Oct. 1.

When asked if he believed Hinrichs meant to enter the stadium with the explosives, Mauldin said, ``I don't believe he intended for an explosion to occur at that spot (on a nearby park bench).''

Hinrichs, of Colorado Springs, Colo., had two to three pounds of triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, in a backpack on his lap when it exploded about 173 yards from the stadium during the second quarter of the Oklahoma-Kansas State football game, Mauldin said.

``Someone saw him fiddling with it (the backpack) shortly before the explosion occurred. I think he got cocky, and it went off,'' Mauldin said.

Mauldin and Police Chief Phil Cotten briefed Norman City Council members about the explosion and the department's investigation in a conference before Tuesday night's meeting.

The FBI has said its investigation didn't find any links between Hinrichs and terrorist organizations. Agents have said they may never know whether the student wanted to get inside the stadium.

The student's father, Joel Hinrichs Jr., has said his son intended to kill only himself.

Mauldin, head of the Norman bomb unit, said investigators detonated at the scene the remains of Hinrichs' backpack, which contained wires, a battery and a circuit board.

Graphic photos showed that Hinrichs was decapitated and his headless body was still upright on the park bench next to the backpack.

Investigators also found more TATP, components to make the substance, a fuse and live military rounds at Hinrichs' off-campus apartment.

``We found evidence of him compressing TATP, which is foolhardy, given its properties,'' the officer said.

Making TATP is a seven-step process, with the substance becoming explosive after three steps, he said.

Bomb squad officers were careful while removing the material from Hinrichs' apartment for fear it would explode, Mauldin said.

``And we wanted to get it out of there quickly. The longer TATP sits, the more likely (it is) to explode spontaneously,'' he said.

Officers also removed metal fragments that are often to explosives to make them more deadly, Mauldin said.

Hinrichs also kept careful notes of experimentation with explosives in the weeks leading up to blast, officials said.

Most of Hinrichs' experiments occurred at Red Rock Canyon in Caddo County, according to the notes.