West Memphis, AR - The ATF and FBI have taken over the investigation into a car explosion in West Memphis, AR Wednesday morning, February 4, 2009.
It happened at Dr. Trent Pierce's home at Avalon and Cooper in West Memphis. We're told the prominent doctor was outside his car when the bomb exploded. Police have not figured out yet if the bomb was outside or inside the car when it exploded. Officers say Dr. Pierce was thrown at least six feet from the car and landed in a flower bed.
After telling Eyewitness News they didn't think there was foul play, police soon held a news conference Wednesday midday and said it was indeed a bomb. They aren't sure when it was placed in or on the car, but that it was indeed an explosive device. Video from the scene shows the bomb went off in the front part of the car. Police say Dr. Trent Pierce is a well respected doctor and they didn't know of any threats to his life.
Neighbors tell us it was a large explosion that was felt a mile away. Parts of the car were found hundreds of feet away from the explosion site. Police say though Pierce has extensive injuries, they say he was lucky considering the size of the explosion. Dr. Pierce was believed to have been outside the car when the bomb exploded. He was airlifted to The MED for treatment in extremely critical condition.
Dr. Pierce was appointed in January of 1997 by Governor Mike Huckabee to the Arkansas Medical Board. His current term expires in 2012. He serves as Chairman of the board and a Congressional District Member.
The ATF is leading the investigation. Eighteen ATF agents from Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans at the scene. An ATF bomb truck was also at the house. The FBI (agents from Little Rock and Memphis), West Memphis police, Arkansas State Police, Memphis Police and Shelby County Sheriff's deputies are assisting in the investigation. ATF agents say there are usually about 3,000 incidents like this each year.
Agents say Dr. Pierce's car is being impounded until they gather more evidence. Police did confirm it was his car. Dr. Pierce's wife was inside the house when the bomb went off, she was not hurt. Police say she did have blood on her clothes, which caused some people to think she'd been hurt, but police say she was not injured.
ATF agents say they will have police and agents around the house and hospital room Wednesday night since they don't know who did it. Family spokesperson, Dr. Scott Ferguson says the family believes Dr. Pierce was targeted but didn't say why.
Neighbors we talked to say Dr. Pierce was nice guy and pillar of the community. Neighbor Charles Cooper says, "He's the last person you expect something to happen to. It just doesn't make sense."
On Thursday, ATF investigators will canvas the neighborhood to find out if anyone has any information that can help with the investigation. Chief Paudert says they also plan to trace all of the 9-1-1 calls that were made in the moments after the explosion.
If you have any information on this bomb call the ATF at 1-888-ATF-BOMB.
UPDATE ON DR. PIERCE'S CONDITION: A close family friend told Eyewitness News Wednesday evening that the doctors at the hospital were taking a "team" approach to treating Dr. Pierce. He was in surgery most of the day and team by team, the doctors went in to treat the most critical injuries. The first thing they removed was the shrapnel in the abdomen. They were able to stitch him up and moved on to his face. Dr. Pierce has severe burns on his face. They moved to his damaged eyes. Surgeons were able to work on both eyes, but don't believe they were able to save his left eye. They believe he will see out of his right eye again. Wednesday evening, specialists moved to the metal in his throat. They were trying to remove it. Dr. Pierce also has a broken wrist and leg. Doctors said once he is stablized, he may be transported to a burn treatment center in Ohio. They say he will probably need plastic surgery on his face for the burns.