Officials in Atlanta consider possibility of a serial bomber 5 hurt in nightclub blast

explosion is third since bombing at Olympic park


ATLANTA -- For the fourth time in seven months, a bomb exploded in Atlanta on Friday night, injuring at least five people at a gay nightclub and causing law-enforcement officials to speculate that a serial bomber may be at large.

As police investigated the bombing at the Otherside Lounge, they found a backpack containing a second bomb in the club's parking lot. Using a robot, the city's bomb squad detonated the second device without incident.

Last month, a bomb was detonated outside a north Atlanta abortion clinic. As police and reporters gathered, a second bomb exploded, leading authorities to speculate that it might have been timed to injure investigators responding to the first explosion. Six people were injured by the second bomb.

On July 27, a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park during the Summer Olympics, killing one woman and injuring 111 people. There have been no arrests.

All of the bombing incidents apparently involved devices that were loaded with shrapnel. Witnesses told reporters Friday night that the bomb at the nightclub seemed to contain nails.

"Several customers thought a lady had been shot," bartender Rhonda Armstrong told the Associated Press. "She rolled her sleeve up and had a spike nail through her arm."

The FBI and city officials did not discount the possibility that the bombings are related, although they said it was too early to know if the bombs were made the same way.

"We all recognized that there are similarities here," Woody Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta office, said yesterday morning. "We will be searching out the possibility that we have a serial bomber."

Mayor Bill Campbell said, "We truly believe that we are dealing with a deranged killer, but one who is very clever as well."

The explosion Friday occurred about 9: 50 p.m. on the patio of the nightclub, said FBI spokesman Jay Spadafore. The club, which caters to gay men and lesbians, is on Piedmont Road, a busy thoroughfare that was blocked off yesterday as police searched for shrapnel and other clues.

Spadafore said that at least 100 people were in the club at the time of the blast and that another bar across the street, the Hot Spot, also was crowded.

"There were potentially a lot of witnesses," he said. He also said there had been no warning calls.

Only one victim was seriously wounded, Campbell said. He identified her as Marie Wells-Griswell of Snellville, Ga., and said that she had undergone surgery yesterday morning at Grady Memorial Hospital. Her injuries were not life-threatening, Campbell said.

The mayor said that four other people suffered minor injuries and were treated and released.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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