Authorities have yet to name a suspect or make an arrest 20 years after someone attempted to bomb the county courthouse in Lafayette with a stolen pickup truck full of drums of diesel fuel and gasoline.
The Tippecanoe County Courthouse suffered about $200,000 in damage when the truck rammed through the glass doors of the building's entrance and caught fire on Aug. 2, 1998, The Lafayette Journal & Courier reported. No one was injured in the attempted bombing of the 134-year-old courthouse considered the architectural jewel and symbol of downtown Lafayette.
The truck carried a payload of diesel fuel and gasoline contained in four 55-gallon drums and another 30-gallon drum, along with a metal cylinder investigators said had as much as 200 pounds of black powder mixed with metal shavings. A 6-foot wick leading to blasting caps was charred but did not stay lit. The driver disappeared before firefighters arrived to knock down a fire so hot and smoky that it took them 10 minutes to find the source in a pickup bed near the center of the courthouse.
Police released a sketch of a man, thought to be in his 40s with a receding hairline, who had been seen near the courthouse that Sunday night. The case remains open, though no one is specifically assigned to it, said Barry Richard, the county sheriff.
“I'm confident that at some point our community will find out who was responsible for that,” Richard said. “It could be today. It could be tomorrow. It could be years from now.”
Tracy Brown, a former Tippecanoe County sheriff and now a county commissioner, said the case has stayed with her all these years.
“There's not any time I'm in that building that I don't think about it,” Brown said. “I don't think that should come as a big surprise. Of all the big cases I've been connected to over the years, that one still sort of haunts all of us that it remains unsolved.”
The attempted bombing led to security changes in and around the building. The county installed bollard posts outside all ground-floor entrances. Security cameras were also installed and more bailiffs were assigned to courthouse details.