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Plan for pipe bomb cache still a mystery No notes found to explain arsenal

The collection of pipe bombs a Niagara Falls man had put together before he was killed by an Erie County sheriff's deputy last week would have caused a blast that would have heavily damaged his condominium complex -- or anywhere else they went off.

"They were loaded with shrapnel and tacks," Erie County Bomb Squad Commander Anthony M. Claybeau said. "There were nails in the bombs with the heads clipped off the nails -- so you could stuff more in.

"This is tedious stuff," Claybeau said. "You don't just sit down, watch a rented movie while you make shrapnel. There was intent."

But for what?

Police, along with Thomas A. Dodge's family and friends, may never know.

Late last week, there were no clues, no notes, no reason as to why Dodge had stored an arsenal that included assault weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and the pipe bombs in his Niagara Falls apartment.

Police said they have found no written explanations, at least not yet, and no signs of drug use.

"I'm still wondering what I missed," said Russell Petrozzi, Dodge's landlord as well as his boss at a Capital Cleaners in Niagara Falls.

Petrozzi said Dodge's strange behavior and killing have hit friends and co-workers "from out of the blue."

"He was my right hand man. He's been with me for seven years. This guy worked hard," he told The Buffalo News.

Dodge, 30, shot his former girlfriend, Wednesday night, hitting her three times, before Erie County Deputy Thomas Meredith killed him on Grand Island. Dodge had two guns and two pipe bombs with him. An early morning search Thursday of his 10th-floor apartment at the Parkway Condominiums on Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls turned up an even deadlier cache.

Dodge appeared to be "pretty well along" in his bomb stockpile, with eight bombs in the apartment and materials to make more, Claybeau said.

Investigators were still unsure late last week if the bombs they confiscated were live, with powder, and will be taking them to the range to destroy them sometime this week, Claybeau said.

If the eight bombs were live and had detonated, they would have taken out apartments next to Dodge's flat, and above and below it, Claybeau said. He praised the Niagara Falls City Emergency Response Team for evacuating the building so quickly.

"He had books, manuals and literature of how to make bombs more harmful," Claybeau said. Police also found assault rifles and shotguns, which Claybeau said was "not unusual for the average gun collector." But he said the thousands of rounds of military-style ammunition was "exorbitant."

"All the things he had were legal, but storing materials together, with the intent to make a bomb is a federal offense," Claybeau said.

Dodge grew up in Grand Island and his father has lived there for many years, Erie County Detective Capt. Ron L. Kenyon said.

"This is a hard-working family, and they are shook right to their toes," said Kenyon.


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