A $25,000 reward is posted for the arrests of Spokane Valley bank-robbing bombers in an investigation being monitored by FBI Director Louis Freeh., The reward would be paid for the apprehension of the suspects and “solution” of the crimes, FBI regional chief Burdena Pasenelli said Thursday.
No suspects are in custody.
A special team of federal agents is following an estimated 300 tips and some suspects already have been eliminated.
Those questioned Thursday and eliminated as possible suspects include two former North Idaho contract employees of The Spokesman-Review.
A ranking Justice Department official said the men who robbed the U.S. Bank at Mullan and Sprague on Monday made references to the Montana freemen as they fled.
Pasenelli wouldn’t confirm that, but said, “There were some anti-government remarks yelled as they left the bank.”
The bombings and robbery occurred exactly one week after the FBI used a trick to arrest a former crop-duster from Colfax, Wash., who moved to Montana and led the freemen.
During the robbery, the masked, armed men filled a large gym bag with at least $50,000, then placed the bomb on the counter of the vault teller.
After herding bank employees out of the building, the robbers detonated the bomb, blowing a large hole in the counter and causing significant damage.
The suspects left behind typed copies of a religious manifesto, similar to the Christian Identity, white supremacy teachings of some of the Montana freemen.
They placed some of the notes in plastic covers, apparently to make sure the contents weren’t damaged in the bomb blast.
A copy of the note also was left at The Spokesman-Review’s Valley office, where a pipe bomb damaged the rear of the building just minutes before the bank robbery.
No one was injured at either the newspaper office or the bank.
A symbol on the bottom of the note resembles the signature of an Aryan enforcer group known as the Phineas Priesthood.
The FBI is investigating the Spokane crimes as a routine bank robbery involving pipe bombs, Pasenelli said.
But it’s increasingly evident that the FBI considers the crimes anything but routine.
Thirty agents from as far away as San Francisco and Seattle rushed to Spokane to follow leads.
Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, who have particular expertise with firearms and explosives, also are involved in the investigation.
The case is being monitored in Washington, D.C, by FBI Director Freeh, Pasenelli confirmed.
“I thought in this case it was a good idea to brief (my supervisors) at the highest levels,” said Pasenelli, whose regional office is in Seattle.
Before assuming that post in December, she was an assistant FBI director in Washington, D.C., and had regular contact with Freeh.
The posting of the reward on Thursday also adds further evidence of the high level of attention the FBI is giving the twin bombings and robbery.
U.S. Bank contributed $10,000 toward the reward. The Spokesman-Review, the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms each are contributing $5,000.
“The $25,000 reward is for the apprehension of those responsible,” Pasenelli said. “We want these people apprehended before this happens again.”
Unlike most crime-solving rewards, those offering the $25,000 aren’t insisting on convictions of the suspects.
“We just want the solution to this crime,” Pasenelli said.
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