Louisiana Man Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for 8 Explosives-Related Charges

Published March 30, 2023

Louisiana Man Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for 8 Explosives-Related Charges

Alexandria, Louisiana – A Louisiana man has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for 8 explosives-related charges.

On Wednesday, March 29, 2023, United States Attorney Brandon B. Brown announced that Daniel Aikens, 40, of Alexandria, Louisiana, was sentenced on March 28, 2023, to 16 years in prison for 8 counts of illegal explosive-related charges by United States Senior District Judge Dee D. Drell. On November 18, 2022, the jury found Aikens guilty of 3 counts of Making a Destructive Device, 3 counts of Possession of a Destructive Device in violation of the NFA, 1 count of Use of an Explosive to Commit a Federal Felony and 1 count of Conveying Malicious False Information.

On September 12, 2019, an explosion occurred at Cloyd’s Beauty School in Monroe, Louisiana, according to testimony given at trial. When the explosion occurred, the victim was placing boxes inside a commercial garbage can when it exploded, leaving him with burns on his hands and face. Agents retrieved remnants of the device for analysis by the ATF laboratory, which discovered a rocket motor frequently available at hobby stores and a pressure cooker. Law enforcement was unable to identify a suspect at the time but got video evidence from Hobby Lobby in West Monroe, LA two days before the explosion showing a black male purchasing a rocket motor. Authorities also gathered a variety of things for DNA examination, including a piece of tape found on the device. Also, authorities responded to reports of an explosion at a Texaco gas station in Alexandria, Louisiana, on December 20, 2019. 911 dispatchers received a call from an unknown male caller informing them of an explosion.

An employee at Payday Today on MacArthur Drive in Alexandria, Louisiana received a phone call from a cell phone number with a 716 area code on January 2, 2020. The caller first spoke with an employee regarding a set of misplaced keys. An explosive device detonated in a garbage can near the building as the employee was seeking for the keys.
The caller claimed he was responsible for the explosion and demanded $10,000 in cash. The caller further stated that there was a second device on the scene and that if the employee did not comply, he would set it off. The caller then gave the employee’s address and stated that he knew she had three children. If she did not obey, he threatened to kill her and her family.
The caller then inquired as to why the employee was heading there rather than to the bank. This prompted the employee to feel that the caller was nearby, watching her. The employee told the caller that she needed a drink of water, but she panicked once inside the store, and the call was disconnected. The employee ultimately did not give the bomber any money. Investigators discovered metal pipe shards among the blast debris gathered from the scene, indicating a pipe bomb detonation.

Law officers contacted employees at a nearby gas station during the inquiry. The gas station is around 400 feet away from Payday Today and was considered to be an ideal overwatch location to monitor any activity at Payday Today. A white Jeep Cherokee was seen on surveillance footage recovered from the gas station. Shortly before the explosion and call at PayDay Today, a tall unidentifiable black male entered the business and made a small transaction. When inside the store on the phone, surveillance footage showed the male glancing in the direction of PayDay Today.   A BOLO alert was issued to police enforcement in the Alexandria region, along with screenshots of a white Jeep Cherokee taken from the gas station and other establishments near the Payday Today blast. The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office identified the Jeep Cherokee and initiated a traffic stop four days later. Daniel Aikens, the driver, matched the description of the subject who was present at the gas station soon before the explosion.
Authorities then obtained a search warrant for Aikens’ home, and during the investigation, they discovered damage in the kitchen area consistent with a blast, as well as what seemed to be galvanized pipe shards and blast debris typical of a pipe bomb detonation.

When investigators arrested Aikens, they confiscated his cell phone and discovered that he had been texting with a friend about the Monroe blast. Agents later questioned this friend, who indicated that Aikens spoke with him following the Monroe and Texaco bombings. He even claimed that Aikens called him from his personal cell phone on the morning of the explosion and allowed him to listen in as he called Payday Today from the “bomb phone.” A forensic examination of Aikens’ personal cell phone revealed Google Street View images of the Ferrand Street area near Cloyd’s Beauty School in Monroe, Louisiana.
The phone’s web history showed a search for “how to build a pressure cooker bomb” and included a possible pdf download. A piece of black electrical tape was recovered from the pressure cooker device and was discovered to contain a mixture of a known DNA profile that was found to be 1 trillion times more likely to have come from Aikens. Mobile phone and 911 records confirmed that the “bomb phone” was also used to contact emergency personnel during the December 20, 2019, Texaco explosion. The 911 recording shows a male caller (identified as Aikens by law enforcement) advising that he was going by, there was an explosion, and he needs law enforcement.

Aikens’ mobile phone location data revealed that he visited many stores in Lafayette, LA, the day before the Texaco explosion. It showed Aikens stopping by Home Depot, Academy Sporting Goods, and Hobby Lobby. Aikens was seen entering the Home Depot at 12:33 p.m. on surveillance video. He bought a drill bit, two metal pipe caps, a steel pipe, and glue in 23 minutes.

Aikens’ cell phone was later discovered near Academy Sporting Goods. About the time Aikens was in the store, agents went over sales receipts. At 1:39pm, they discovered a sales receipt for 2lbs. Rifle Powder Hodgdon H335. Two children’s fishing rod and reel combos and a lady’s rod and reel combo were included in the same transaction. All three fishing combos were eventually obtained from Aikens’ girlfriend, who stated that Aikens had given the fishing equipment to her and her two children as Christmas gifts. Aikens then went to a local Hobby Shop. A study of the security video from December 19, 2019, revealed Aikens purchasing what looked to be rocket motor starters. Aikens returned to the store on December 21, 2019, and made the same purchase as on December 19.

“Simply put, Daniel Aikens is a domestic terrorist. The citizens of the Western District of Louisiana should be able to move about their respective communities freely on a day-to-day basis without fear of hurt, harm or danger and this defendant deserves every single day of the sentence handed down by the court. The sentencing hearing showed that the victims involved still are healing emotionally and I hope we brought them some manner of justice. The prosecution team and state, local and federal investigators are to be commended for a job well done in collaborating to ensure that this defendant is held accountable. Given the investigator’s swift action, no other individuals were harmed. I pray that the conviction and sentence will serve as a deterrent for anyone thinking of committing such a selfish and inhumane crime,” stated United States Attorney Brown.

“ATF will continue to prioritize and aggressively investigate crimes involving the criminal use of explosives. Explosives can lead to serious injury, damage, and create fear in communities like happened to the citizens of Alexandria and Monroe,” said ATF New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn. “ATF remains vigilant working with its partners to keep the public safe by investigating and perfecting charges against those who use explosives with criminal intent.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Alexandria Police Department, the United States Marshals Service, Louisiana State Police, and the Alexandria Fire Department, with assistance from the Alexandria Public Safety Commissioner and the City of Alexandria Mayor’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jamilla A. Bynog, LaDonte A. Murphy, and Daniel J. McCoy.

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