Jury convicts man for pipe bomb incident

A federal jury has convicted the man accused of detonating a homemade explosive in the Hinsdale train station 17 years ago.

Thomas James Zajac, 70, formerly of Oakbrook Terrace, was convicted Monday of all three counts against him, including one count of attempting to destroy property with an explosive device, one count of possessing an unregistered destructive device and one count of willfully making a threat through the mail to kill or injure a person with an explosive device, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois.

Zajac placed a pipe bomb in a trash can at the BNSF station that exploded during the morning commute Sept. 1, 2006, causing damage to the station and injuring a station agent, according to the release.

After the explosion, the at-large bomber sent a taunting letter to the police chief, warning there would be more explosions that would lead to people dying, according to the release and Hinsdale Detective Sgt. Lou Hayes.

The author wrote the department interfered with the wrong person.

“This will likely eventually lead to the death of at least one Hinsdale citizen,” he wrote. “It’s up to you. In fairness, I fired a warning shot last month. Let’s see if you’re bright enough, or possess the character needed, to stop this death. I don’t believe you do, but my conscience will be clear.”

He went on to say a couple of officers harassed a person who needed their help, causing as much pain as possible.

“Now it’s my turn,” Zajac added. “I’ll be watching and listening to news of the police department. I won’t go out of my way, but if I hear of foul play by your men, someone is dead.”

According to evidence presented at the trial, Zajac “felt disrespected” when Hinsdale police arrested a family member the previous year.

The property destruction count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a maximum of 20 years. Each of the other two counts are punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly set sentencing for Dec. 13.

Zajac was arrested in October 2006 by the Bureau of Alcohol, tobacco and Firearms at his home in Oakbrook Terrace for a Sept. 15 explosion in the Salt Lake City Public Library, The Hinsdalean reported at the time. Authorities noticed similarities in the letter received by Salt Lake City and Hinsdale police.

He was convicted in 2011 on six federal counts for the Salt Lake City bombing and is serving a 35-year-prison term.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean