A 38-year-old Moorpark man originally thought to be the victim of a racially inspired murder attempt is now suspected of having placed a bomb in his own car in a hoax probably triggered by a marital dispute, authorities said Thursday.
Ventura County sheriff's deputies late Thursday were seeking Oscar E. Love, 38, who had claimed to be the victim of an attempted car bombing and death threats the last two weeks. Investigators said Love was wanted on suspicion of manufacturing and possessing an explosive device and filing a false police report.
Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Barnes said his office now believes "the whole thing was fabricated."
Before the bizarre turn of events, word of the the racial incident had shocked city officials in the sedate, low-crime city 15 miles west of the San Fernando Valley. Although only about 1% of the city's 15,000 residents are black, city officials said Moorpark has been untroubled by racial tensions as more black families have moved to the area the past few years.
Love, who is black, is a finance executive who two months ago moved with his wife, Lois, and two teen-age children to a town house in Moorpark's Varsity Park, a racially mixed, middle-class area near Moorpark College.
Two weeks ago, Barnes said, Love told sheriff's deputies that he had received several phone calls and two unsigned notes threatening him with death and containing the racial epithet: "We really don't care for uppity blacks."
The notes consisted of letters cut from newspapers and magazines and pasted on sheets of paper.
On Jan. 24, the purported anti-black campaign escalated when Love claimed to have discovered a bomb attached to his car's battery and wired to explode upon ignition, Barnes said. A sheriff's team defused the bomb without incident.
Investigators said they received information from a family member Thursday claiming that "Love admitted he had originated the threats and placed the explosive device in his own car," Barnes said. He said it was believed the incident stemmed from a marital dispute.
Ventura County sheriff's deputies went to Love's Los Angeles office in the afternoon to make an arrest, but Love had fled after learning that authorities had been tipped, Barnes said.
Reached at his office Thursday morning, before authorities shifted their investigation to him, Love said: "I don't want to talk about it until it's resolved."
Love has liven in Moorpark several years and has been active in raising funds for school athletic programs, according to Mary Quirk, principal of Moorpark High School.
Quirk said Love is president of the Moorpark High School Booster Club and is well-liked by other parents who support school activities.
News of the first version of the incident upset neighbors and city officials and prompted area civil-rights activists to call for a broader investigation, possibly including federal authorities.
"I'm surprised and appalled," Mayor James D. Weak said earlier Thursday. "Generally, there haven't been any racial incidents around the city."