July 14, 1996 in Nation/World

Two Bombs May Have Been Used Blast May Have Caused $85,000 In Damage

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Investigators will piece together twisted pieces of metal to determine if two pipe bombs exploded simultaneously at a Spokane Valley birth control clinic.

The bombing at the closed Planned Parenthood office is believed to be the largest ever carried out in the region - where such violence is a decade-old trademark of right-wing extremist groups.

Surveillance photos released Saturday show an armed paramilitary squad - the same one believed responsible for the bombing - later carried a bomb-like device into the U.S. Bank branch at Sprague and Mullan. The photos were taken from a bank security camera.

The device didn’t explode in the bank but the robbers got away with what’s believed to be a considerable sum of money. Investigators aren’t saying how much.

The robbery came about six minutes after the 1:41 p.m. explosion at the Planned Parenthood office at 20 S. Pines.

Investigators believe the bombing was intended to be a diversion and a political message.

Damage to the building where Planned Parenthood leased an office could hit $85,000.

One bomb expert said he thinks enough pieces were recovered for two bombs - possibly taped together with burning fuses - before they were hurled inside the Planned Parenthood office.

But another expert said he will reserve judgment on the size or number of bombs until after the pieces are reassembled and analyzed on Monday.

After Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents conclude their preliminary examination of some 40 bomb fragments, they will be shipped to a Treasury Department laboratory near San Francisco for scientific analysis.

It’s believed the bomb - like those that exploded in April at the same bank and The Spokesman-Review’s Valley office - was ignited with fuses and matches, sources said.

The shrapnel and a getaway van are the only clues to the latest bombing and robbery.

The van - almost identical to a stolen van used in the April 1 bombings and robbery in Spokane - had plates from other vehicles.

The front license plate, sources said, was registered to a blue Cadillac owned by a Tacoma man.

The rear plate on the GMC van was from a silver Suzuki Samurai, owned by another Pierce County man, sources said.

Those owners couldn’t be reached Saturday, nor could it be confirmed whether the van was stolen.

No arrests were made Saturday, while FBI and ATF supervisors discussed investigative strategy.

“They’ve definitely upped the ante this time,” one senior FBI agent said.

ATF agents and sheriff’s detectives agreed.

“All we really know at this point is that these guys are really dangerous,” one sheriff’s official said. “They’ll kill a cop in a heartbeat if we got in their way.”

A specially mobilized team of FBI and ATF agents is being formed. Federal agents from several other cities are flying to Spokane this weekend.

After a briefing on Monday, ATF and FBI officials plan a joint press conference.

The last robbery at the same bank netted similar-looking paramilitary robbers more than $50,000.

On Friday, the masked robbers placed a gym bag and a portable propane tank in the bank, before placing what may be a remote-controlled triggering mechanism on top of the tank, the surveillance camera photos show.

The fleeing robbers removed the propane tank. Two similar tanks later were found in the getaway van.

An attempt was made to ignite the tanks and burn up the getaway van, but something went wrong, sources said.

A firebomb in the getaway van used in the April robbery also malfunctioned.

Friday’s malfunction will allow investigators to once again collect fingerprints and other evidence from the getaway van.

U.S. Bank officials weren’t available for comment Saturday, and it’s unclear whether the bank branch will reopen on Monday.

The bold, terroristic nature of Friday’s bombing and robbery in Spokane is causing veteran FBI and ATF agents to swallow hard.

Their chief concern is the stark comparison between Friday’s crimes and those carried out April 1 at the same U.S. Bank branch and the Valley office of The Spokesman-Review.

Privately, investigators are frustrated and puzzled, wondering when the team of guerilla bombers and robbers will strike again.

One FBI agent had expressed precisely that view one day before Friday’s bombing and robbery.

Investigators also wonder whether a new version of The Order is surfacing.

In 1984, after secretly forming in Metaline Falls, Wash., that renegade band of neo-Nazis committed a $4 million string of robberies and bombings before the FBI started making arrests.

In addition to the media and family planning clinics, potential targets for such groups include government offices, adult book stores, topless bars and porn theaters.

Members of the groups often believe their criminal acts have religious justification, that God is on their side and against the evil government and immoral society.

Investigators say they believe those responsible for the April robbery and bombings are tied to a movement that wraps anti-government fervor with racism and religion.

Notes left behind used a Phineas Priesthood symbol. The white supremacy sect believes it has religious justification to carry out certain acts on behalf of the white race, or the “true Jews.”

No notes were found after Friday’s crimes.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos


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