By SCOTT PESZNECKER
A pipe bomb explosion last night at the Calaveras County Administrative Center left a building charred, a janitor knocked off his feet and nearby homes and residents rattled.
The bomb detonated about 9:10 p.m. and blackened the back side of the county Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program building. It also left shrapnel in the wall and damaged the building's air conditioner and power box.
Other than a janitor, who was knocked down, no one was injured, and there was no damage inside the building.
"It could have been a lot worse; somebody could have died," Calaveras County Sheriff's Department Capt. Mike Walker said this morning at the blast scene. He and other investigators had been there all night.
County Assessor Randy Metzger lives near the government center. He said he heard the blast last night while outside feeding his dogs.
"It sounded like a huge rifle shot, but I knew it wasn't a rifle shot because it was too loud," Metzger said. "You read about terrorism back East and the Twin Towers. It always seems like a movie until it happens closer to home."
The government center, at 891 Mountain Ranch Road in San Andreas, is the hub of Calaveras County's departments, programs and services.
Walker said groundskeepers and janitors at the government center when the bomb went off described a possible suspect.
Sheriff's officials are looking for a white man, between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 150-170 pounds. He had on a white T-shirt and dark pants and drove a "newer, shiny, forest-green pickup," a sheriff's department press release said.
The Calaveras Sheriff's Department Hazardous Materials Bomb Unit along with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and state arson and bomb specialists scoured the government center throughout the night for more bombs. Searchers concluded about 6 a.m. today that no more explosives were present.
Still, the blast area was cordoned off by yellow tape this morning while authorities searched for evidence.