A significant break in the Martin Luther King Day backpack bomb investigation in Spokane occurred this morning when an FBI SWAT team executed a search warrant and reportedly made an arrest in the small northeastern Washington town of Addy.
FBI officials weren’t immediately available for comment, but indicated the name of the suspect would be forthcoming in a news release.
The case has been investigated as a case of domestic terrorism.
Addy is a community in Stevens County, in the northeastern corner of Washington state, bordering Canada. The county has long been a hotbed of extremist and Christian Identity activity.
The arrest was being reported by Spokane media, including The Spokesman-Review and KXLY-TV.
The backpack bomb, containing an undisclosed type of explosive and shrapnel reportedly dipped in rat poison or a similar chemical, was left on a park bench in downtown Spokane just prior to a Martin Luther King “unity parade” on Jan. 17.
Bomb squad technicians, risking their lives, dismantled the device rather than detonating it in place, leaving FBI forensic experts with a treasure trove of evidence.
“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 and released three photographs, including one of the black Swiss-Army backpack that contained the destructive device. Two T-shirts found in the backpack were from running events that had occurred in Stevens County.
“It was set 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.
The device components were being sent to the FBI’s laboratory in Quantico, Va.