Arrow-right Camera


Abandoned Briefcase Brings Police Bomb Squad To Ridpath Montana Man Left Pens, Stapler Behind After Libertarian Convention

Tue., April 30, 1996

A briefcase left behind by a hotel guest usually doesn’t bring the bomb squad.

But this briefcase had an address in Montana - home of the Unabomber suspect and militant freeman - and was discovered nine hours after a pipe bomb exploded at Spokane City Hall.

Then there was the scruffy-looking man in the trenchcoat seen walking nearby.

The abandoned briefcase was discovered during lunchtime Monday in an empty ballroom in the Ridpath’s annex at Stevens and First.

Police cordoned off the block and rerouted traffic as they brought in the bomb squad and searched for the disheveled man.

The man was quickly cleared and the name and address on the briefcase matched to a weekend hotel guest. He had attended a Libertarian Party convention and returned home to Montana without his briefcase.

The Ridpath reaction was not unusual considering the community’s fixation on bombs, Police Chief Terry Mangan said.

“It’s done two things,” Mangan said of recent events. “It’s caused apprehension and concern. That’s not a good thing. “But it’s raised awareness. That’s good. Just because you live in Spokane, Washington, or Oklahoma City or New York City doesn’t mean you can’t be a victim of someone’s violent excess.”

The Libertarian Party of Washington State drew 50 to 60 people from across the Inland Northwest to its weekend convention at the Ridpath.

“The Police Department must be pretty edgy,” said Janice Moerschel, Spokane County party chairwoman. “I can understand their concern but regret this kind of concern over someone’s briefcase.”

Mangan said the Montana man was contacted, confirmed he lost his briefcase and accurately described its contents. The case was X-rayed and found to contain what the man said it would - pens and office supplies.

The Montana man said through Moerschel that he didn’t want to be interviewed or his hometown identified.

“He’s totally innocent of everything,” Moerschel said.

Ridpath General Manager Carl Naccarato had just returned from a trip to Hawaii.

“Better safe than sorry,” he said. “Welcome back to Spokane.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

Click here to comment on this story »