Person of interest arrested while investigation into explosion continues

Courtesy: Alexandria Town Talk- An Alexandria man has been arrested as the joint investigation into last week’s explosion off MacArthur Drive continues.

Daniel Dewayne Aikens, 37, was booked into the Rapides Parish Detention Center at 12:57 a.m. Tuesday as a federal prisoner. No charges are listed, but his address is 11 Tennessee Ave.

Federal, state and local law enforcement had that street blocked off on Tuesday morning and into the afternoon. They appeared to be searching at least one house in the vicinity of that address.

Aikens was led out of the federal courthouse in downtown Alexandria around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in handcuffs by U.S. marshals. It’s not immediately known what charges he might be facing.

The FBI would neither confirm or deny any details about Aikens’ arrest. An email seeking details from the U.S. Attorney’s Office wasn’t immediately returned late Tuesday.

Aikens has a criminal history in both Grant and Rapides parishes and has a Thursday court date in Colfax on pending charges.

Officials hadn’t publicly stated Tuesday afternoon whether or how Aikens might be connected to the Jan. 2 in Alexandria, which officials called a failed attempt to extort money from a business on MacArthur Drive. Law enforcement also searched a Jackson Street convenience store, U-Pak-It, on Jan. 4.

The Alexandria Police Department has been working since last week with other local, state and federal agencies in a joint investigation. City officials have deferred questions about the investigation to the FBI in New Orleans.

The arrest could calm nerves in the city. After the explosion, and a Facebook post by the alleged victim in that incident, people commented on social media about not being told what was happening and warned others from coming to the city because it wasn’t safe.

People shared the Facebook post made by the alleged victim in the Jan. 2 incident almost 5,000 times. She ended it by urging people to share because “everyone needs to know there is a sick individual and terrorist at large in the Alexandria area!”

The next day, the city issued a release calling the explosion a failed extortion attempt. It also included a statement from Alexandria Police Chief Jerrod King, asking people not to share detailed information because it could hinder the investigation.

King was placed on administrative leave later that day. No public reason for the action has been announced.

As for Aikens, this is not his first arrest.

He was arrested in April 2018 by the Grant Parish Sheriff’s Office, when they responded to a call about a woman being beaten and found the bloody victim with a belt cinched around her neck. A gun recovered at the scene also had been held to the victim’s head, according to a release.

Then a Dry Prong resident, he was arrested on charges of domestic abuse battery by strangulation, domestic abuse battery aggravated assault and intimidation of a witness.

At the time, Aikens was employed as a teacher at Alexandria Middle Magnet School.

Grant Parish District Attorney Jay Lemoine said his office brought charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and battery of a dating partner. He was found not guilty on the assault charge, but guilty of the battery charge.

He was sentenced to the maximum penalty, six months in parish jail, with credit for time served.

Lemoine said Aikens has charges of possession of contraband in a penal institution and violation of a protective order pending against him. He has a Thursday pretrial conference scheduled in that case.

In September 2019, Aikens was booked into the Rapides jail on 16 counts of insurance fraud. Before that, on Aug. 16, 2018, he was booked on charges of theft of a motor vehicle greater than $25,000 and theft greater than $5,000 but less than $25,000.

The status of those charges was not immediately clear on Tuesday afternoon. There are no open files against Aikens listed in online Rapides Parish Clerk of Court records.

The arrest follows searches on Monday and Tuesday near the explosion site.

A statement released late Monday by the FBI in New Orleans called that search part of an ongoing investigation with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Officials have been using that term to describe an investigation started last week after an explosion characterized as a failed extortion attempt.

The FBI statement also said the Monday activity was part of a “court-authorized law enforcement activity” with its agents, as well as state and local agencies.

Before that statement, the city issued an email that said the activity was part of a joint investigation.

On Tuesday morning, the agencies were on Tennessee Avenue. The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office bomb squad truck and an ATF truck were parked on the street near a house where law enforcement appeared to be searching.

A FBI spokesman in New Orleans told The Town Talk he could not confirm or deny that the activity was part of the ongoing investigation or whether anyone was in custody.

Roads were blocked to traffic both on Monday night and Tuesday morning.

On Monday night, Elliott Street from MacArthur Drive to Texas Avenue was blocked off, and the service road was cordoned off from Scholtzskey’s restaurant near Marye Street to the traffic light near the Stimson Avenue intersection.

Two FBI agents could be seen searching with flashlights through what appeared to be a white sport-utility vehicle with a Louisiana license plate.

Onlookers stood nearby, some filming the activity with their cellphones.

Neither of the statements issued that night confirmed the search was part of the investigation into the Jan. 2 explosion farther down on MacArthur.

But the FBI, ATF, Louisiana State Police and Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office responded to that scene to assist the Alexandria Police Department after it was reported. Some of the agencies, including the FBI, responded to another scene on Saturday.

On Tuesday, Tennessee Avenue was blocked from Rapides Avenue to Hynson Street. Alexandria Police Department officers and others could be seen standing in a yard with a gray pickup truck and a maroon or brownish car parked on the lawn.

It appeared activity could have been happening at a house next door, too. A few residents walked out of their homes to look at what was happening, but they all went back inside.

Later, two men, one wearing a Louisiana State Police jacket, began going door to door, talking to residents.

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