Ex-Arizona State prof stops traffic with Liberty Bell bomb scare

Visitors to Independence National Historical Park at the Liberty Bell on Friday, April 8, as negotiations continue in Washington to avoid a government shutdown, which would close this site and others, as well as shut down many federal services. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)
Visitors to Independence National Historical Park at the Liberty Bell on Friday, April 8, as negotiations continue in Washington to avoid a government shutdown, which would close this site and others, as well as shut down many federal services. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)
Posted: January 29, 2013

CARLOS J. BALSAS apparently has a thing for state and national monuments.

A former Arizona State University professor and urban planner, he led a movement to revitalize Arizona's aged and decrepit state Capitol.

But on Saturday, when Balsas, 41, of Tempe, Ariz., came to the Liberty Bell Center, preservation was the furthest thing from his mind.

About 10:05 a.m., a security officer told Balsas that he had to check his bags.

While security personnel examined his backpack, Balsas said, "I have explosives in there," according to police.

Balsas then left. Security officers immediately notified the U.S. Park Rangers of the incident, provided a physical description of Balsas and told them where he was headed.

Park rangers stopped Balsas on Market Street near 7th, where he was uncooperative, police said. After a brief struggle, the rangers handcuffed him.

Philadelphia police detectives and members of the Police Department's bomb squad arrived, along with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Park rangers stopped all pedestrian and vehicle traffic on Market Street between 7th and 8th during the investigation.

The backpack tested negative for explosives.

Balsas was charged with terroristic threats, bomb threats, possessing an instrument of crime, recklessly endangering another person and related offenses. The U.S. Attorney's Office will follow up with the investigation Monday.

Balsas is no longer an Arizona State professor, but no one was available at the university Sunday to confirm when he left.

He had been an assistant professor in the school of planning and a senior researcher at the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory.

In 2005, when Balsas helped lead a movement to spruce up the state Capitol, he told the Arizona Republic: "The Capitol Mall is a forgotten area."

It is not known how long Balsas had been in Philadelphia or if he is employed.


On Twitter: @barbaralaker

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