City Hall Bombing Aftermath
Photos from May 22, 1970
Federal, State and local law officers converged on Ames City Hall within minutes of a 1970 blast caused by a bomb placed in a basement window well. The bomb ripped the hood from Assistant Police Chief Tom Lyttle’s Buick, which was parked directly over the blast area. Besides injuring nine people, two seriously, the explosion also tore bars loose from the basement jail, mangled two nearby cars, caused damage all along Main Street, and shattered nearly 200 windows in the Sheldon-Munn Hotel. View additional photos. The Ames City Hall Building in 1970 is today known as the Richard O. Jacobson Youth & Family Center, located at 420 Kellogg Ave.
This bombing was especially disturbing to Ames residents because a bomb had been discovered in Judge McKinney's garage one month earlier. Learn more about that incident.
(Ames Tribune photo from the Farwell T. Brown Photographic Archive)
State Highway patrolman Charles W. Elliott is shown being assisted by an unidentified FBI agent as he leaves the Ames City Hall following the bombing of May 22, 1970. Francis Hunter, a power plant operator, has just given his shirt to Elliott to staunch his wound. The explosion cost Elliott the use of his left eye. Municipal Court Judge John L. McKinney is shown emerging from the front door, and Assistant Ames Police Chief Tom Lyttle is wearing his police uniform hat. Ames animal control officer Marland Dass is in the upper right-hand part of the photo, standing next to the brick wall.
The shock and dismay which quite naturally are the immediate reaction to the bombing of the Ames City Hall are all too likely to be followed, we fear, by another reaction. That is the feeling which we heard expressed, not too guardedly, in the crowd which milled around the city hall building this morning; the feeling that “We better do something about this.”
While we cannot imagine the workings of a mind which would engineer the placing of a bomb outside a crowded public building, we must, in conscience, counsel all citizens to refrain from comment likely to inflame, rather than quench, what is an extremely dangerous situation. It must be considered that any person who would be a party to such a destructive act is not likely to be deterred by any considerations of pity or charity or humanity from causing the injury of innocent persons. And yet this cannot be the guideline for community behavior now. The innocent – all of the innocent – must be protected from harm while the search for the perpetrators of the incident goes on.
Therefore, we would caution everyone who reads this against reaching any hasty conclusions about the source of the bomb, those responsible for placing it and those who are likely to realize benefit from the bombing. For no one knows, at this point, who the guilty parties might be. There is no benefit to be gained from speculation. And we would further counsel that those who can best carry the investigation to a conclusion are those professional law enforcement officers, who are working under the combined impetus of professional pride and the injuries to their associates. No citizen action – except cooperation with legally responsible officials – is appropriate or necessary. Anything else is as anarchic as the bombing.
|BOMB THREAT CALLED TO
IOWA STATEHOUSE - An anonymous caller told
a switchboard operator at the Statehouse yesterday that he had placed a
bomb in the building. Authorities immediately put into effect a search
plan worked out a year ago when there were a series of false bomb reports.
The building was not evacuated but the State Executive Council passed a
resolution giving department heads discretion to allow any employee who
was nervous about the threat to go home. Officials said the anonymous
call was received at 12:24 p.m.
The switchboard operator said the caller was a man who said “I just planted a bomb in the Capitol,” then broke the connection. The Executive Council voted to close the Statehouse to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays until further notice. Members said the reason is that the Statehouse force of security guards is below strength at present.
Daily, May 23, 1970
EXPLOSION DAMAGES OTHER FIRMS - At least a dozen Ames businesses reported damage as a result of the explosion that ripped through city hall yesterday – injuring nine people and leaving an angry, frustrated community in its aftermath. While tremors from the explosion could be felt for at least six blocks from the bombing site, damage was limited to downtown businesses within a 1 1/2 –square block radius from the city’s main municipal building – which houses the police department, jail, mayor’s and city manager’s office and Municipal Court.
Probably the most extensively damaged building, except for city hall, was the Sheldon-Munn Hotel – which, according to a hotel official, had between 175 to 200 windows broken during the blast. Shaughnessey’s, a home decorating shop at 510 Kellogg Ave., reported several broken light fixtures stemming from the explosion. The back door was blown off the China Center, 231 Main St., and some damage to the Center’s merchandise was reported. A window was broken at the Ames Laundry at 220 Fifth St., and several light fixtures were damaged.
The explosion ripped off the back door at Marjorie’s Smart and Thrifty, a women’s dress shop at 233 Main St., and glass was broken in a side entrance. The Leftwich Style Salon, Kellogg Avenue and Main Street, reported that two large windows were broken in the building. Nyle Nim, an employee at Nim’s Sportman’s, was thrown across the room by the tremors from the blast. The store, located at 225 Main St., suffered slight structural damage. The air-conditioning system was also damaged and several windows were reportedly broken. The Lazy M Shoe Store, 232 Main St., reported several cracked windows, and the store’s sign was damaged by the blast.
Tribune, May 23, 1970
CLEAN UP AFTER BLAST HERE - The casual observer walking down Main Street Saturday would notice very little out of the ordinary. However, a close look through well-cleaned plate glass windows of a few of the stores in the vicinity of Kellogg Avenue, show traces of debris left by the violent blast of what was believed to be 15 pounds of explosives outside City Hall Friday morning. Most of the plate glass windows on Main Street and Kellogg Avenue have been replaced, the major debris cleaned up, and people are attempting to return to a normal life.
Major exception to the outward serenity is the municipal building. Snow fence barriers, backed up by law enforcement officials and firemen, kept the curious out of the area along Kellogg Avenue between Main and Fifth Streets. The Iowa Highway Patrol communications van, which had been used as a temporary dispatcher's office for the police Friday, was moved out early Saturday and the officers were back in their regular areas of the Municipal Building.
Some windows of the building are boarded up, and the cell area, which took the main force of the blast planted in the window well outside, was blocked off. City engineer Arnold Chantland said a preliminary examination of the building showed no beams or columns damaged. Some walls were cracked, he said, but these were not major load-bearing walls.
Many of the upstairs windows in the Sheldon-Munn Hotel had not been replaced, but were covered with plastic. A few other second story windows in the downtown area were also covered with plastic, awaiting repair. There was a large surge of persons trying to get a close look at the area Friday, or gain information about the explosion.
When classes were dismissed at Central Junior High School Friday afternoon, children streamed down Fifth Street to get a first-hand look at the damaged building. Later in the day, they were replaced by older persons in cars. Downtown traffic was exceptionally heavy as the people tried, without success, to get close to the scene.
Sales of the Tribune, which was the first member of the news media on the scene, were heavy. The vender in front of the office was filled twice during the evening, and was empty again Saturday morning. By mid-morning, a large stack of the papers were being held for people who had reserved them by telephone.
There was an audible reaction by citizens, both inside and outside the community. All day Friday, small clusters of people were noted discussing the situation and what they thought should be done. On the floor of the U.S. Senate Friday afternoon, Sen. Jack Miller, R - Iowa, announced the bombing and called for immediate Congressional action on President Nixons's proposal to strengthen laws involving illegal use, transportation or possession of explosives. Miller appealed to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees "to act without delay" on the matter. He also mentioned the May 13 bombing of the Des Moines police station, calling the explosions "terroristic activities" which "are being repeated throughout the country."
Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, left, talks with Ames Mayor Stuart Smith, back to camera, Municipal Court Judge John L. McKinney, second from right and Joseph R. Coupal, right, Iowa Director of Highways, in front of city hall. The governor came to Ames by helicopter after receiving word of the explosion.
Tribune, May 25, 1970
BOMBING INVESTIGATION CONTINUES - Federal, state and local law enforcement officers are continuing their investigation into the bombing at the Ames City Hall Friday morning. Police chief A.E. Siedelmann said Monday there has been good response from citizens in reporting tips they believe could aid the investigation. Citizens, Siedelmann said, are encouraged to continue aiding police in the bombing matter and all investigations.
Siedelmann, who was out of town when the blast went off, said the police operation is back to normal. Communications help was received Friday afternoon when the Iowa Highway Patrol set up its mobile communications center in front of the city hall. The police chief said he was shocked at hearing of the blast. Siedelmann was one of 200 law enforcement executives attending a conference in Excelsior Springs, Mo., on invitation by Attorney General John Mitchell.
"We were very fortunate there were no fatalities," Siedelmann commented. Security precautions were being followed on a 24 hour basis since earlier bomb threats. Security, which continues tight, was bolstered over the weekend by Ames firemen who allowed only authorized persons with specially issued passes into the building, Siedelmann said. Construction workers and crews were continuing Monday in replacing windows and repairing damaged areas. The loss estimated at around $20,000.
Two of the three persons hospitalized over the week end remain in fair condition at Mary Greeley Hospital. They are Iowa Highway Patrolman Charles Elliott, 1113 Kellogg Ave. and Ramon Wicks, 117 10th St., a prisoner in the jail at the time of the blast. Elliott suffered serious head injuries and Wicks suffered extensive injuries. Esther Schoff, 421 East Sixth St., a meter maid, was released from Mary Greeley Hospital Monday morning.
Daily, May 27, 1970
THE CITY COPES WITH PROTEST - The past year has shown Ames more people in the streets than any 10 Fourths of July combined, and until recent weeks police remained on the fringes protecting the rights of all involved. Whether this says anything for the climate of the times it is a demonstration of the willingness of Ames city leaders not to interfere.
Ames police have stood by the policy of their chief, A. E. Siedelmann, who has said the demonstrations would be permitted as long as no one’s property was endangered and laws were not broken. But Ames Mayor Stuart Smith has said he would rather see the energies of the students spent in political campaigning than protesting. He calls the energies of this nation’s youth vast and feels they “could have a profound effect” if channeled into political activities. Police cars following closely behind numerous marches, and often leading them were there to keep traffic from running into the marchers, Siedelmann said.
But the novelty of the mass rally-marching technique has worn thin as May saw mass arrests on two occasions, the discovery of a bomb-like device in the home of the Municipal Judge, strained tensions lingering over Veishea festivities reflecting nation-wide anger at the National Guard slaying of four Kent State students; and then the apparently unprovoked bombing of city hall last Friday. Without exception all the demonstrations and protests in the past year, beginning with the momentous October 15 Moratorium, spawned on the Iowa State campus. This fact, combined with the traditionally assumed alienation between students and communities has undoubtedly strained emotional feelings on both sides of the issue.
When approached by the leaders of the then
budding October Moratorium, the city council flushed a resolution requesting
the Ames community spend Oct. 15 in special contemplation and discussion
of the Vietnam War. Instead, the council responded with less favor
than when approached by …
The day-to-day administrators of the city have been cooperative. Parade permits have been issued to numerous groups. Law enforcement personnel have not become involved, even when many citizens and downtown businessmen have expressed desires to have protests stopped. Others in the downtown area feel protesters “have the right” to protest. The arrests and charging of protesters at the draft board this month set off minor controversies among the demonstrators. To them the more serious charge of resisting arrest was used to get at the leaders, or those city officials believe to be the leaders.
The blast that rocked downtown Ames Friday
morning has for some strained feelings of animosity toward students even
further. Assistant Chief of Police Tom Lyttle referred to groups
that had been protesting when newsmen asked if he had any idea who might
have been responsible for the bombing.
Tribune, May 27, 1970
BOMB THREAT AT CITY HALL - Police detectives made an extensive search of the Ames City Hall building Wednesday after an anonymous caller said a bomb would go off. A police dispatcher said the call, apparently from a male, came at 10:23 a.m. While the building was not officially cleared, women employees from different offices left the offices until later in the day.
The bomb threat follows the Friday bombing which left nine persons injured at the city hall. Since that time, threats were received at the Story County Court House and the Story County Hospital, both in Nevada.
Iowa Highway Patrolman Charles Elliott and Ramon Wicks, both injured in the bombing Friday, were reported in satisfactory condition and improving in Mary Greeley Hospital Wednesday.
Tribune, May 28, 1970
NEW SECURITY FOR CITY HALL - Security measures in the Ames City Hall were tightened Wednesday after an anonymous caller said a bomb would explode in the building. City manager J.R. Castner, who ordered the security measures, posted an employee inside the entrance. Persons wishing to do business in the building must sign their name, address and where they expect to go in the building. A pass number with a clothing clip is issued and must be returned when the visitor leaves the building. Ames detectives watched the entrance much of the afternoon Wednesday as the security began. Employees and detectives were also issued passes.
Castner, who was out of town during the Friday bombing, said the bombing was "a tragic thing." Since that time various security measures have been enforced. Ames firemen and police worked as guards last weekend at the building and Castner said they would guard the building during the night, holidays and weekends. Castner said the measures would aid investigators and add confidence to the women employees in the building. Castner said about 15 employees left their offices for the day shortly after the 10:23 a.m. bomb threat. They will not be penalized in pay, Castner said.