Father and Son Bank Bombers Head To Death Row in Oregon

Extremist Cop-Killers

With faces swept free of emotion, Bruce Turnidge and his son, Joshua Turnidge, received death sentences in December for aggravated murder charges stemming from the bombing of an Oregon bank that killed two police officers.

During trial, a portrait of two angry men emerged: delusional and racist "Patriots" contemptuous of the government and police and fearful that President Obama would take away their right to possess guns. Both father and son harbored antigovernment ideas and fantasized about figures they viewed as antigovernment heroes, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2003. Nevertheless, it remains unclear exactly why the Turnidges thought planting a bomb outside a suburban bank before a robbery would strike a blow against federal power.

Joshua and Bruce Turnidge
Joshua and Bruce Turnidge

The Turnidge bombing occurred on Dec. 12, 2008, when an employee at Wells Fargo in Woodburn, Ore., received a call from a man instructing her and her fellow employees to leave the building. When her manager told her to hang up, she did so and promptly notified police. William Hakim, a bomb technician with the Oregon State Police, initially thought the boxed bomb was a hoax and began dismantling the package.

The bomb went off unexpectedly. Prosecutors contended that it was set off by an unknown transmission of some kind, perhaps from a local CB radio. Defense attorneys claimed that Hakim set it off by hammering on the device.

Hakim and Woodburn Police Capt. Thomas Tennant were killed in the explosion. Woodburn Police Chief Scott Russell lost his right leg, and bank employee Laurie Perkett was injured.

One of the witnesses to the bombing, an ATF agent, likened the Turnidge's bomb to those made by Eric Rudolph, the anti-abortion terrorist known as the "Olympic Park Bomber" who was responsible for a series of bombings between 1996 and 1998 that killed two people and injured more than 100.

In a jail cell letter to his girlfriend before the death sentence was handed down, Joshua Turnidge vowed he would fight to the death against those who had "declared war" on him, and that his last breath would come in battle. "I fear my heart is growing cold with hate for what they have done to us," he wrote. "I pledge to you that not a day will go by that will not be filled with retribution."