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Brother of Man Injured by Pipe Bomb Blast Is Arrested

Both face charges after the explosion outside a Santa Ana office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez. No motive to target her is apparent, officials say.

June 17, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Police on Monday arrested the older brother of a man severely injured by a pipe bomb explosion Sunday outside a Santa Ana office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, saying he was linked to the incident.

Hien Duc Le, 33, was stopped while driving away from his home in the 8700 block of Lariat Avenue in Garden Grove by officers who had the house under surveillance, said Santa Ana Police Sgt. Baltazar De La Riva. Investigators recovered "items" in Le's car that tied him to Sunday's blast, De La Riva said.

After searching Le's car, detectives searched the house that he shares with his brother Hai Duc Le, 35, who was allegedly handling a pipe bomb when it detonated at 2:25 p.m. Sunday. Police recovered additional items in the house that, like those found in the older brother's car, were "similar to" the bomb that exploded, De La Riva said.

He declined to identify the evidence recovered from the search of the older brother's car and the home.

Hai Duc Le was severely burned in the explosion of what police described as a bomb built from plastic pipe. He remains hospitalized and was charged with possession of an explosive device, De La Riva said. He said detectives would try to interview him.

The older brother was charged early Monday with conspiracy and possession of an explosive device.

De La Riva said investigators do not know why the younger brother was at the Santa Ana strip mall, where Harbor Boulevard meets West McFadden Avenue.

Although he was parked near Sanchez's campaign office, De La Riva said investigators do not know whether it was the intended target. The office was closed and Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) was not in Orange County at the time.

"We have no information that leads us one way or another to believe that anyone in the strip mall was a target. We also don't have any information that leads us to believe Loretta Sanchez was a target. The investigation is continuing," De La Riva said.

Sanchez spokesman Raul Luna said her congressional office in Garden Grove had been helping a relative of the Le family resolve a problem with a federal agency. Luna declined to be specific, noting privacy laws, but De La Riva said the unidentified relative had sought help from Sanchez in settling an immigration matter.

Luna said there was nothing in the office's contacts with the family "that let us to believe it would result in a terrorist act against the congresswoman." He also noted Sanchez's frequent support for human rights in Vietnam and discounted any political differences with the staunchly anti-communist Vietnamese community in Orange County that could have sparked a bombing of her office.

"Loretta is grateful that no innocent bystanders were injured. She's just as surprised by what happened as anybody," Luna said.

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Times staff writer Mai Tran contributed to this report.

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