COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — A man who was killed when a homemade explosive blew up at his home was an eccentric who bicycled around his neighborhood dispensing anti-government conspiracy pamphlets, neighbors said Monday.
"He definitely seemed paranoid about things and people," Donna Swift said. "It was getting more extreme."
A bomb squad, the FBI and other investigators descended on a quiet street of neatly kept ranch-style homes in an upper middle-class Orange County neighborhood after 52-year-old Kevin Harris died in a Sunday night blast.
An ambulance had been called about 90 minutes earlier when neighbors saw the man lying on his front lawn, but he refused offers of help and went inside, neighbors said.
Police were called about 7:30 p.m. after neighbors heard the explosion, and the man was found dead at his home.
Harris was killed by a homemade explosive device, but it was not immediately clear whether the blast was accidental or suicide, police Lt. Bryan Glass said.
Two other explosive devices were found and detonated before residents of nearby houses were allowed to begin returning to their homes, Glass said.
Swift, who has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years, said the man apparently had lived in the same home three doors down from hers since birth. He apparently lived there at first with his parents and brothers but currently lived alone and may have inherited the home, she said.
He was "a little off," she said.
"He was kind of a recluse, super-bright but very reclusive," she said. "Never worked and (was) always on his bike."
He passed out pamphlets to neighbors and stores, including a brochure that he called "The Pricker," Swift said.
About 11 years ago, he wrote a 14-page document that he distributed which contained some neighbors' names and which prompted police to take him in for a 72-hour mental examination, Swift said.
Despite being odd, however, her neighbor always seemed polite and unthreatening. Swift said she had him over for dinner several times.
"I never felt that I couldn't be around him," she said.
Nancy Souza, who has lived a few houses away for 35 years, said Harris always had mental problems but had become increasingly bizarre.
He rode around on a bicycle wearing a pointed straw hat and mirrored goggles, tacked a manifesto on a tree in front of his house for neighbors to read, and a few years ago, put what looked like foil on his garage door, she said.
Despite the eccentricities, Harris never seemed a threat and he knew everybody in the neighborhood, Souza said. His immediate neighbors were protective and kept an eye on his comings and goings, she said.
"People tried to befriend him because there was a lot of sorrow for him," she said.
"You walk by and you wonder because you never know what goes on in there, no lights on or anything," she said.
A long, rambling article called "The Pricker" posted on the Internet mentions the man's address and is subtitled: "A True Story of Assassination, Terrorism And High Treason."
The article, dated 2002 and updated in 2005, says the pricker is a concealable weapon that can inject diseases into victims without their knowledge and contends that U.S. government assassins had infected people with AIDS and other diseases.
A variety of other plots are mentioned and the writer adds: "There are more plots coming, more subtle and powerful motivational implants, robot weapons, biological weapons, and colossal deceptions. We all need to realize that if we do not get this situation under control (or out from under control), that our entire species will perish."
Associated Press Writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.