January 22, 1996 in Nation/World

Bomb Wrecks Parked Car Attack May Be Race-Related; Shrapnel Hurled Half A Block

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A bomb that destroyed a car in front of a North Side apartment complex Sunday - spraying glass and metal in all directions - could have been racially motivated, the car’s owner said.

William Mitchell parked his car in the 2900 block of North Stone early Saturday evening after picking up a gallon of milk.

He shoveled snow around his parking space and locked his car doors.

At 3:45 a.m. Sunday, while Mitchell was sleeping, his car blew up.

The explosion ripped a hole through the floorboards and turned the 1985 Dodge Colt into a heap of twisted metal. No one was hurt.

“I looked out my window and my car looked like a piece of aluminum foil,” said Mitchell, who is African American. “It was eaten up and torn up.”

Police Chief Terry Mangan vowed to investigate the blast aggressively.

“We have zero tolerance for anyone who uses terrorist tactics, regardless of the type of crime or the motive,” Mangan said in a prepared statement.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sent evidence gleaned from the wreckage to the bureau’s laboratory in Walnut Creek, Calif.

While authorities suspect a pipe bomb was used, test results may not be known for more than a week.

Neighbors, angry and fearful, offered police little more than speculation. They said the motive behind the explosion is either racial hatred or some kind of gang rivalry.

“I think it might be racially motivated,” said Mitchell, 25. “That’s the only explanation I have.”

Mitchell, who moved from Tacoma about a year ago, said he has lived in the North Stone apartment for about seven months with his wife, who is white. They have a 2-month-old son.

Mitchell said he knows no one in Spokane, although neighbors said the apartment has had many visitors.

Sunday’s blast rained glass halfway down the block.

It knocked out the driver’s side window of Jack Katzenberger’s Mercury Cougar, parked next to Mitchell’s car.

A chunk of pipe, possibly from the bomb, also smashed through Katzenberger’s apartment window.

Another neighbor, Stephen Berglund, said he thought his cat had knocked something over.

Scott Burtts, who manages the apartment complex with his wife, said he thought someone had blasted through his front door with a shotgun.

“It looked as if God put his thumb down on the car and smashed it,” Burtts said.

After the explosion, residents called police and huddled outside.

They worried about their children. They wondered whether to sweep up the blanket of glass.

“We were kind of all in shock,” Berglund said. “It’s not something that happens every day.”

But in recent months, the neighborhood has had its fill of violence.

In December, a man was arrested less than a block from where the car exploded after he had held a 16-yearold girl in her home at gunpoint for more than six hours.

In July, a couple were gunned down in their apartment five blocks away.

Neighbors ticked off the problems on their fingers. They worry about violence. Most talked about moving - if only they could afford it.

“I’m going to move right away,” Mitchell said. “Maybe somebody doesn’t like me because my wife is white.”

On Sunday, residents cleaned up. Katzenberger taped a plastic garbage bag over his shattered car window and green construction paper over his broken apartment window. His daughters asked if the family could move.

“I don’t understand why people have got to settle their problems with violence and destruction,” he said. “This is what’s wrong with this world.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Map: Car bomb explodes

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