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5 HURT IN ATLANTA LOUNGE BLAST; SERIAL BOMBER SUSPECTED.

Byline: Tara Meyer Associated Press

A bomb blast that injured at least five people at a crowded nightclub - the fourth to rock this city in seven months - has forced authorities to consider the possibility of a serial bomber.

``Clearly, we believe that we are dealing with a deranged killer, but one who is very clever as well,'' Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell said Saturday.

A few blocks away from the nightclub on Saturday evening, a fire station, a motel and several businesses were evacuated after someone called the fire station saying a bomb had been planted there. Police barricaded streets in the area.

Friday night's bombing rocked The Otherside Lounge, whose clientele is mostly gay and lesbian. The lounge was crowded with about 150 people when the nail-packed device exploded in a rear patio.

``We heard it and felt it,'' said Scott Raimer, who was standing inside a club across the street when the blast occurred. ``I ran out immediately and we heard shrapnel landing on the ground in our parking lot.''

Memrie Wells-Griswell of Snellville, the most seriously wounded with a 3- to 4-inch nail in her arm, was in stable condition Saturday after surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital. The other four were treated at hospitals.

The blast blew out a window and part of a door, said club owner Beverly McMahon.

``We have had no problems in seven years with this club,'' she said. ``I'm shocked it happened to my club.''

Police found a ``suspicious'' backpack with a second bomb shortly after arriving. That device, set near a low brick wall in a parking lot beside the building, was detonated by a remote-controlled robot.

Aspects of Friday's bombing echoed the July 27, 1996, Centennial Olympic Park attack, which killed one woman and injured 100 people, and two Jan. 16 bombings at Atlanta Northside Family Planning Services, which injured seven.

Like both previous attacks, nails were used as shrapnel; like the Olympic bombing, a backpack was used to deliver a bomb; and, like the Northside clinic bombing, a second device, intended for police and medical teams, was used.

And like both previous attacks, there have been no arrests.Authorities drew no immediate connections among the attacks. ``They will be worked as separate investigations but we all recognize the similarities here,'' FBI agent Woody Johnson said. ``We will be searching out the possibility that we have a serial bomber.''

A terrorism expert said Saturday that serial bombers choose their targets carefully.``Bombers don't just do this on the spur of the moment,'' said Brian Levin, an associate criminal justice professor at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, N.J. ``There is significant planning about where they should put a bomb to target individuals.''

Unlike the park bombing, authorities don't know of any warning calls in the latest blasts. Friday's bombing was called into the city's 911 center at 9:58 p.m. as a shooting, said Police Chief Beverly Harvard.

``This is the second incident with two devices we've had,'' said Jack Killorin, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent. ``We have no information to match them up but we would be unwise not to be prepared for that possibility.''

The federal task force investigating the abortion clinic explosions will take over the nightclub bombing, joined by an ATF team arriving Saturday from Washington. A separate team is looking into the Olympics blast.

``Maybe this was something to scare us, to put us in our place,'' said Atlanta gay activist Lynn Cothren. ``We will not let this bomb or any kind of hate send us back into the closet.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 23, 1997
Words:598
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