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Possible Terror Attack on MLK Parade in Spokane Thwarted

By Bill Morlin on January 18, 2011 - 4:18 pm, Posted in Extremist Crime

A backpack bomb with the potential of killing or injuring dozens of people was found Monday along the route of a Martin Luther King Day “unity march” in downtown Spokane, Wash., authorities said today.

“It was a device that clearly was intended to harm or kill people,’’said Frank Harrill, a senior FBI agent and spokesman for the bureau’s Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The FBI posted a $20,000 reward Tuesday and released three photographs, including one of the black Swiss-Army backpack that contained the destructive device.

Harrill would not discuss the type of explosive or its construction, including whether the backpack contained an explosive shield intended to spray shrapnel toward potential victims.  He also declined to say if the device was intended to be detonated remotely or by a timer.

“It had the potential to detonate during a unity march on the King Holiday, so, obviously it had political or social overtones,’’ Harrill said.

There was no threat made before the device was discovered by three construction workers about a block from the city’s Opera House and Convention Center where various speakers, including Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, spoke after the march.

No similar devices have been found and no group or individuals have claimed responsibility, Harrill said.

The device was rendered safe by a police bomb squad on a park bench where it was found after police rerouted 1,500 unity parade marchers around the site.

“We recovered a great deal of evidence,’’ Harrill said, declining to say whether fingerprints or DNA evidence may have been recovered.

Although a motive hasn’t been publicly identified, Harrill said the timing and placement of the potentially deadly bomb suggests possible ties to domestic terrorism or hate groups.

The investigation was assigned to the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force, composed of various investigators from an assortment of federal, state and local agencies.

Those investigators worked through the night Monday but had made no arrests by late Tuesday. The same task force also continues investigating another improvised explosive device that was left last year, unexploded, outside the federal courthouse in downtown Spokane.

“We are not able at this time to link this device to any other similar device, but that certainly remains an area of intense focus,’’ Harrill said.

In the 1980s and 1990s, individuals with ties to extremist and hate groups were convicted of planting and detonating homemade pipe bombs at various locations in Spokane and nearby Coeur d’Alene and Hayden Lake, Idaho, which served as headquarters of the Aryan Nations.

The FBI released photographs of two T-shirts found in the backpack after it was disarmed Monday.

One of those T-shirts was from a cancer fund-raising event in 2010 in Stevens County, in northeastern Washington. Individuals linked to the earlier bombings in Eastern Washington and North Idaho had ties to militia and Christian Identity groups in Stevens County.

On July 27, 1996, a backpack bomb exploded near a park bench in Olympic Centennial Park in Atlanta, Ga., killing a woman and injuring 111 others. Eric Robert Rudolph, raised in a family with ties to Christian Identity, ultimately was arrested and convicted of being the Olympic Park bomber.

  • Jay,1845266

    Don’t forget the Unibomber

    You want more or is that ok Ruslan?

  • Ruslan Amrikhanov

    Still waiting for that list of “left-wing” terrorism in the last 30 years.

  • Jim

    Actually, the murderous gang of thieves that Chevie Kehoe of Colville helped lead during the 1990’s was the Aryan People’s Republic, not the Aryan Republican Army that he associated with, my mistake…Chevie hoped to follow in the boots of Robert Mathews of Metaline Falls and Mathews hoped to follow in the boots of Gordon Kahl..”If you live by the sword, you will surely die by the sword.” Some of the far-right fringe in our area i.e. Christian Identity/Constitutionalist/Sovereign Citizens appear to play a game of rural vs. urban and plan their activities or potentially lethal attacks from up here and carry them out in Spokane. A very sick game for the criminally inclined with a hollow justification in the Bible. Domestic terrorism, at times, appears to be a cottage industry with tragic urban results. Lim limt.

  • Jim

    As a resident of Stevens County for a very long time, we seem to make it into the paper thanks to the cowardice of Christian Identity/Constitutionalist militia groups bent on making a statement regarding their plan to make Stevens County a “whites only” area. Our region has become known for the failures of Richard Butler of the now defunct Aryan Nations, Robert Mathews of “The Order”, and Chevie Kehoe of the Aryan Republican Army of Colville to achieve that goal. It appears to be a very slippery slope to advocate violence to achieve one’s goals (Christian Identity pseudo-religion) and other members of your group then wonder why you haven’t acted on your beliefs.
    Some hate groups know that law enforcement budget cuts recently could make the area more user friendly..Our newly elected Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen is a moderate Republican who believes that noone is above the law here in Stevens County so that should help us up here..Some have wondered who would try to fill the boots of Chevie Kehoe from Colville who planted a pipe bomb at Spokane City Hall back in 1996…maybe a person or persons is trying to do that from a local Christian Identity Militia group?? The Unorganized Militia of Stevens County perhaps?? Or the most recent militia group up here?? Who knows but chances are the 97% to 98% of the population of Stevens County, conservatively speaking, are tired of the notiriety and bad press similar to Hayden Lake, ID and stand up and speak up and make a very public statement, “Not In Stevens County.” If anyone has any information or possible leads, they could share that with our local sheriff’s department and improve the quality of life here in Stevens County and Spokane County..Lim limt


  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Concerned Citizen said,

    The minorities were oppresed and now they want to call the shots-at the expense of the silent majority.”

    See, this is why people call you conservatives racist. It’s the attitude which says, “Oh of COURSE racism was a problem of some kind, some time in the PAST, but we fixed all that!! Now THEY want to rule us!! And WE’RE persecuted!”

    See the funny thing about that is that back in 1963, a large majority of white people also believed that America had solved its problem with inequality. In fact, even during the times of slavery some of its supporters tried to portray slavery as normal, and that the slaves were actually happy and carefree. In fact, even today conservatives want Americans to just forget about slavery and its legacy, and we hear this on a daily basis. So just when WAS racism and discrimination a problem in American history?

    “If King was truly a great man as you liberals say, perhaps he could done a better job of preacher, instead of creating divisisivenesas.”

    Since I’m not a liberal maybe I shouldn’t answer this- but conservatives have been trying to claim MLK for quite some time. Of course had any modern black leader said some of the things he said about the US, Glenn Beck would be calling him a Communist and adding him to the
    chalkboard right next to all the other hidden Communists in American history, such as Obama, Mr. Rodgers, Ronald McDonald, and Scott Baio.

    Personally my Civil Rights heroes would be Malcolm X and Fred Hampton. You’d LOVE them.

  • Snorlax

    I read that differently, I thought they used “possible” to mean that the attack could have possibly taken place if they hadn’t found the bag with the bomb in it.

    Definitely terrorism though, I agree completely with that assessment.

  • skinnyminny

    Thanks for your comments to me. Believe it or not, but, I came from such a similar background. I went to inner-city schools that either didn’t have textbooks, or the books had to be shared that had missing pages, and so on.

    I’m kinda concerned when people like Concerned Citizen has beliefs that war is good. I say this because, as you can see, this country is having a field day with anti-immigration. (BTW, I intentionally wrote the comment above so that they can see how it feels to hurl the words Illegal and Alien at people mainly from Latin America). The problem with war, is it creates hundreds of thousands, if not millions of refugees. I don’t think anyone wants to be forced out of their countries due to war, and I don’t think all of the countries accepting the refugees are ready to deal with the strains on their economies/societies.

    And yes, racism hits close to home for me. I have watched growing up, a close (immediate) family member would discriminate within our families – the darker skin would be treated badly in front of the lighter skin family members. Also, I must admit, that is one of the reasons I am now agnostic. I grew up in the church, but, we don’t have religious leaders like MLK. I don’t agree with a lot of what’s happening in the churches, such as greed, intolerance…

  • Mitch Beales

    Concerned Citizen many men and boys fought bravely to keep Germany from being invaded at the end of WWII. Does this mean that it would be wrong to preach against Nazism?

  • Marty

    Skinnyminny, your posts are always very articulate and to the point. The problem with “concerned citizen” is that:
    1. He (really unfortunately) never received basic English education past grade 4.
    2. He doesn’t know how to use spell check.
    3. He won’t understand anything anyone said in answer to him.

    He is the prime example of the 10% of people who make up the ignorant, fearful, and armed to the teeth people of this country. Now don’t get all crazy folks, thinking that I’m saying it’s wrong to have guns. Not so. I’m just very concerned about the ignorant, fearful, and crazy armed people.

  • skinnyminny

    Concerned Citizen,

    Wow! I’m almost speechless and out of breath after reading your comments.

    Let’s make sure I have your comments correctly. You asked why was MLK against the Vietnam War if he was a preacher? Wow! No, let’s try this again. OMG (and I am agnostic), and no she didn’t!

    I take it you haven’t met any injured and sickened Vietnam Vets, i.e. Agent Orange. I also take it you haven’t seen any documentaries of any countries after their countries were war-torn. I take it you haven’t seen the scores of children that have lost limbs/lives due to playing outside and accidentally stepping on landmines, as well as different types of cancers.

    I also take it that you didn’t know that while the Vietnam War was going on, there was poverty and unemployment going on in this country. Try looking at the documentary, “Hubert H. Humphrey: The Art of Possible.” You may also be able to view this on your computer, I’m not sure. But in this documentary you will see a protest sign, “wipe out poverty, not people.”

    But anyway, I’m not sure if you really understand what happens to a country in the midst of war, or after. I also think you don’t understand why so many people DO NOT like the West. Based on your comments, I believe you to be a person lacking of empathy.

  • R Lavigueur

    Concerned Citizen,

    Your post was somewhat incoherent, so forgive me if I’m only able to focus on the beginning of your statement.

    You seem to begin by implying that:
    1: Brave people fought in Vietnam on the American Side
    2: Martin Luther King Jr. was opposed to the Vietnam War
    Martin Luther King Jr. hated brave Americans and this taints the ideals of racial tolerance and equality he stood for. This displays both logical fallacy and ignorance of MLK.

    You seem to assume that any opposition to the Vietnam war, or any war, means that the protestor opposes the safety and well being of the soldiers fighting the war. Most anti-war protestors consider the soldiers fighting to protect government or business interests victims, in some cases, it is their respect for these men and women that lead them to oppose a particular war in the first place. This is especially true in cases where soldiers are drawn from lower-class backgrounds or were conscripted into the conflict against their will.

    In fact, if you bothered to look into MLK’s speeches around the Vietnam War, you’ll notice one of his recurring reasons for opposing the conflict was that he saw it as a colossal waste of American (and Vietnamese) life; and was especially hurt by the fact that White and Black American soldiers were killing and being killed side by side when they would not have been allowed to attend the same schools in America. This hardly comes across as hatred or disrespect for the men doing the fighting.

    As for preaching instead of creating divisiveness, I don’t think you’ll be able to get much support from ‘Liberals’ for the idea that it’s more important to teach about God than to oppose such injustices and horrors as racial segregation, discrimination and, for that matter, unjust wars. The close one’s eyes to evils in the real world to prevent people from getting uncomfortable or angry tends to sit much better with those who benefit from the status quo than those who suffer from it.

  • Robert Eckheart

    Wow, looking at some of the comments in regards to this incident just shows me that both Republicans and Democrats will go to great lengths to show their hatred towards each other, and some of you actually think that you are the future of this country, if this is the case then we are in big trouble as a nation.

    Thank God this device did not go off and was found by a few alert individuals. I just hope now that the law enforcement community can find out who did it.

    Lose the hate people and remember why we celebrate January 17th. Love – Respect – Equal Treatment For All

  • Robert Foedisch

    The head line in this story used the word “possible” There was no possible about this situation. It was an act of domestic terrorism

  • Concerned Citizen

    Martin L.uther King Jr may have a preacher, but there much to do desired. Why was King so against the Vietnam war?
    Many men and women fought bravely over there.
    To me. King was another adject liberal who used preaching
    in trying to create equality, in which reality of the American psychics. The minorities were oppresed and now they want to call the shots-at the expense of the silent majority.
    If King was truly a great man as you liberals say, perhaps he could done a better job of preacher, instead of creating divisisivenesas.

  • Marty

    Ok, the trolls are out in force and I’m glad to see the sane writers are here, too. Every Time something like this happens the groups and individuals on the extreme right try to draw a false equivalency saying that liberals, left leaning, progressives, etc also do things like bombing the olympics (Eric Rudolph, dedicated right-winger), or bomb the Murrah Bldg in Oklahoma City (Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, both rabid right wing militia types), and I just fail to see the examples.
    To the trolls who asked for instances of rabid right wing murderers, here they are, just a few. Now YOU name some liberals or progressives from this century,or at least from the 1980’s onward who have done similar. You can’t. You know why? Because it never happened.
    I have to believe there must be a few right wing people who have the ability to think, or learn. Otherwise, I guess and will continue to believe that they are intellectually challenged and simply do not have the ability to read and comprehend, do not care at all for anyone outside their own family (that’s Christian?) or that they are really just full of hate for so many people and align themselves with hate groups because they truly do fit their needs to hate.
    God help us all.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “In response to Mary who said “Sounds more like a left winger setting up a blame-the-right incident.”
    Are you suggesting that white supremacists (who probably planted this bomb) are conservatives?”

    Yes, white supremacists are “conservative” by very definition of the term. They were against integration, and still are, they want to “conserve” an older form of society, just as modern-day conservatives wish to do. Modern-day mainstream conservatives reject overt expressions of racism and white-supremacy, but they cannot help but reveal their racist ideas daily in the form of “Islamophobia”(adherents typically associate Islam with dark people), and the constant suggestion that minorities are out to “get whitey.”

  • Ian

    Concerned Citizen,

    Who on the mainstream, liberal left hates Christianity? Do you mean liberals like Barry Lynn, the World Council of Churches, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, those secularists in liberation theology, or – to return to the topic of the post – Martin Luther King Jr.?

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Yes, “Concerned Citizen”, please update us on the hidden rash of left-wing terrorism(environmentalism, by the way, is not necessary left-wing). I’m sure the “libruhl” media must be covering up all those terrorist attacks by the Marxist People’s Liberation Army of America. I’m sure they must have some rather large “liberated zones”in the center of the country thanks to the media’s total blackout of their activities.

  • Kat

    In response to Mary who said “Sounds more like a left winger setting up a blame-the-right incident.”
    Are you suggesting that white supremacists (who probably planted this bomb) are conservatives? I know a lot of conservatives (including myself) who would tell you that in no way is that the case. White supremacists are racist wackos who do not represent conservatives’ values of limited government and personal responsibility, so please don’t lump them together. I find your comment offensive & I’m tired of people thinking that all the deranged, racist people out there represent conservatives!

  • skinnyminny

    BTW, it is mighty suspect that all of a sudden we have a rash of crimes. Thanks to GOPers repeal of healthcare, there’s two students in Gardena, Califas that was accidentally shot. ***Just sayin’, people don’t go out and try to get injured and/or sick.

    Thanks to Michele Bachmann, that she went on television announcing she was filing papers to make the tea party an official political party. Today in Woodland Hills, Califas, a school police officer was shot in the chest. And yes, the suspect is described as a white male, 40ish, and breaking into cars – do you think this was a drug habit? Either way, with no jobs, no healthcare, who will pay for the extremely large population of drug addicts that have been unleashed into society?

  • Red Weasel


    I would love to see the left wing terrorism that you speak of,
    Can you give us a link?

    Just a good search option would be a nice as I’m turning up nothing but anti-lumber and animal rights stuff, nothing that kills people.

  • skinnyminny

    Interesting that the right-wing always try to blame the left. It’s no secret, the right-wing try to leave confusing notes/trails…remember the guy that went to ACORN offices posing as a pimp? Remember the ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT-ALIEN that robbed banks using the ‘player’ mask to make the cops think that the robber was black? You see, in the end, all this will do is make minorities more suspicious of white people. This is unfair, because not all white people are out to harm minorities.

    Concerned Citizen,
    Interesting you wrote, “You don’t hear about left wing terrorism by the left wing media…” FWIW, because the rightwing is so intent on showing the flaws, differences, and that others are ‘subhuman and inferior,’ best believe they will use whatever they can as a talking point(s). There’s a guy on the radio that have callers try to identify what Jesse Jackson is saying on different soundbites. This is somewhat mainstream with this station (alleged to be Clear Channel).

  • Concerned Citizen

    You don’t hear about left wing terrorism by the left wing media, nor do you hear about right wing terrorism by right wing conservative operatives. I believe in being fair to both sides.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “mary said,

    on January 18th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Sounds more like a left winger setting up a blame-the-right incident.”

    Oh do go on. Please, explain why it “sounds” that way.

    And Concerned Citizen, please consult Digby’s list and then tell us how “both sides” have problems.

  • charlie

    Thanks to digby for the above list.

  • charlie

    I keep hearing that there has been no political violence over the past two years and that it’s terribly unfair to keep claiming that paranoid, right wing conspiracy talk has anything to do with anything. Anyone who has a list of left wing violence over the past 2 years that compares to this, let me know.

    — July 2008: A gunman named Jim David Adkisson, agitated at how “liberals” are “destroying America,” walks into a Unitarian Church and opens fire, killing two churchgoers and wounding four others.

    — October 2008: Two neo-Nazis are arrested in Tennessee in a plot to murder dozens of African-Americans, culminating in the assassination of President Obama.

    — December 2008: A pair of “Patriot” movement radicals — the father-son team of Bruce and Joshua Turnidge, who wanted “to attack the political infrastructure” — threaten a bank in Woodburn, Oregon, with a bomb in the hopes of extorting money that would end their financial difficulties, for which they blamed the government. Instead, the bomb goes off and kills two police officers. The men eventually are convicted and sentenced to death for the crime.

    — December 2008: In Belfast, Maine, police discover the makings of a nuclear “dirty bomb” in the basement of a white supremacist shot dead by his wife. The man, who was independently wealthy, reportedly was agitated about the election of President Obama and was crafting a plan to set off the bomb.

    — January 2009: A white supremacist named Keith Luke embarks on a killing rampage in Brockton, Mass., raping and wounding a black woman and killing her sister, then killing a homeless man before being captured by police as he is en route to a Jewish community center.

    — February 2009: A Marine named Kody Brittingham is arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama. Brittingham also collected white-supremacist material.

    — April 2009: A white supremacist named Richard Poplawski opens fire on three Pittsburgh police officers who come to his house on a domestic-violence call and kills all three, because he believed President Obama intended to take away the guns of white citizens like himself. Poplawski is currently awaiting trial.

    — April 2009: Another gunman in Okaloosa County, Florida, similarly fearful of Obama’s purported gun-grabbing plans, kills two deputies when they come to arrest him in a domestic-violence matter, then is killed himself in a shootout with police.

    — May 2009: A “sovereign citizen” named Scott Roeder walks into a church in Wichita, Kansas, and assassinates abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

    — June 2009: A Holocaust denier and right-wing tax protester named James Von Brunn opens fire at the Holocaust Museum, killing a security guard.

    — February 2010: An angry tax protester named Joseph Ray Stack flies an airplane into the building housing IRS offices in Austin, Texas. (Media are reluctant to label this one “domestic terrorism” too.)

    — March 2010: Seven militiamen from the Hutaree Militia in Michigan and Ohio are arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate local police officers with the intent of sparking a new civil war.

    — March 2010: An anti-government extremist named John Patrick Bedell walks into the Pentagon and opens fire, wounding two officers before he is himself shot dead.

    — May 2010: A “sovereign citizen” from Georgia is arrested in Tennessee and charged with plotting the violent takeover of a local county courthouse.

    — May 2010: A still-unidentified white man walks into a Jacksonville, Fla., mosque and sets it afire, simultaneously setting off a pipe bomb.

    — May 2010: Two “sovereign citizens” named Jerry and Joe Kane gun down two police officers who pull them over for a traffic violation, and then wound two more officers in a shootout in which both of them are eventually killed.

    — July 2010: An agitated right-winger and convict named Byron Williams loads up on weapons and drives to the Bay Area intent on attacking the offices of the Tides Foundation and the ACLU, but is intercepted by state patrolmen and engages them in a shootout and armed standoff in which two officers and Williams are wounded.

    — September 2010: A Concord, N.C., man is arrested and charged with plotting to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. The man, 26-year–old Justin Carl Moose, referred to himself as the “Christian counterpart to (Osama) bin Laden” in a taped undercover meeting with a federal informant.

  • Sofi

    Spokane is my hometown. I attended high school in Colville, WA, Stevens County for two years. I feel confident that the attempted bombing was not a left wing set up. Stevens County (just north of Spokane) has always been home to the John Birch Society and other right wing extremists. There used to be John Birch Society billboards on the road that I traveled from Spokane to Colville. I know the environment and would be very surprised if this was not a racial/right wing motivated offense.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Here we go again! The left blaming the right and the right blaming the left. There is extremism on both sides of issues. The left hates conservatives and Christianity and the right hates liberals and secularism and non-Christian cults. Go figure!

  • TruthHurtz

    Mary – The sooner you embrace the truth of the right being more violent, the sooner you’ll become a better person through the valuable skill of critical thinking.

    Try it once.

  • R Lavigueur


    Can you come up with one, just one, example of a case where a left-leaning American attempted to murder innocent people just to rile up antagonism against Americans who are more to the right? Do you have any evidence at all that would lead to such a conclusion in this case?

    I can understand the right wing’s reluctance to accept culpability for the violent actions and domestic terrorism committed by those who identify with their politics, but claiming this is black propaganda just on the information we have before us seems to approach paranoia, unless you really are better informed than the rest of us. If so, by all means show us your reasoning.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Why come conservatives don’t condemn their extremists???!!!”

    SARCASM WARNING: The comment above is sarcastic. If you are sarcasm impaired, it is based on the constant cries by conservatives for Muslim leaders to condemn the actions of extremists, and the conservatives’ total lack of initiative in finding such condemnations which occur on a regular basis.

  • Stefan BC

    The backpack has been sold en masse at Target for the past few years


    Improvised explosive device. The FBI and DHS have warned that veterans drawn into the right-wing could use their military expertise gained in Afghanistan and Iraq to bolster the violent capabilities of white nationalist groups and the Patriot militia.

    We need more granular analysis of the device and, obviously, link to the perpetrator(s).

  • mary

    Sounds more like a left winger setting up a blame-the-right incident.

  • bjanna

    Anyone who would run a race for cancer and plan to bomb a parade is having serious issues with their Christian identity.

  • Gen. JC Christian, patriot

    I see the Stevens County Race for Life t-shirt. Scary place. My work required me to go to Colville a few times a year. The town is dominated by a huge cross on the hill above it. Gives me the shivers, given the nature of the place. For many years, the local radio station hosted a Christian Identity show on Saturdays. I don’t know if they still do.