May 1, 1996 in Nation/World

Street Workers Might Have Been Bombing Victims Traffic Engineer Says Crew Was Lucky Not To Have Been In Line Of Explosion

Adam Lynn Jim Lynch Contributed To Th Staff writer
 

Two city workers painting traffic lines on Post Street easily could have been victims of the Spokane City Hall bombing, officials said Tuesday.

The workers were lucky they weren’t outside the Post Street entrance when the pipe bomb exploded about 3:15 a.m. Monday, spraying the area with potentially lethal nails and screws, said Don Ramsey, city traffic engineer.

Authorities don’t think the men, who were working on the downtown street between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., were the target of the bomber, who apparently used a timing device.

“It was just a coincidence they were there at that time,” Ramsey said. “If it had been raining that day, they would have been doing something else.”

The men were using a truck to paint lines on north-south arterials downtown in preparation for the annual Lilac Festival parade on May 18, Ramsey said.

The bomb shattered a window in a door and hurled nails and screws across Post and 150 yards into Riverfront Park.

Despite their proximity to the explosion, the workers didn’t see or hear the blast or notice the damage, said Kent Green, their supervisor.

“It’s a pretty concentrated effort,” Green said of the stripe painting. “One of them is driving the truck and the other is operating the painting equipment.”

Federal investigators reported making little progress in solving the bombing Tuesday, said Jim Provencher, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is heading the investigation.

Agents were following up a couple of leads but had no suspects or motive, Provencher said.

Investigators say it is unlikely the explosion was connected to two April 1 bombings in the Spokane Valley.

“There is nothing to lead us to believe that this is more than an isolated incident at this time,” Provencher said.

The growing fear of bombs in Spokane is having little impact on plans for Sunday’s Bloomsday run.

Race and city officials said Tuesday they are preparing for the event like any other Bloomsday, but admit security will be tighter than usual.

Bloomsday’s 7.45-mile course is usually patrolled by about 60 police officers and 50 volunteers. Most of the force is on foot.

Sgt. Jim Hoagland, the department’s public events director, said the bombing will heighten awareness in all the officers. “That’s the big difference,” he said.

Officials weren’t surprised nobody reported the City Hall bombing for more than three hours.

Unlike the county courthouse, the doors to City Hall have no burglar alarms that would have alerted police when the bomb blew up, said Dennis Hubbard, the City Hall maintenance supervisor who discovered the damage.

Loud noises aren’t unusual in the downtown area at night, and the bomb did minimal damage to the building, said police Lt. Al Odenthal.

Odenthal said no officers in any of the city’s patrol cars reported seeing or hearing the blast.

The explosion left broken glass on the sidewalk outside City Hall and nails and pieces of pipe and other debris in Post Street.

“There were no smoking ruins or piles of rubble,” Odenthal said.

Dozens of citizens working the graveyard shift early Monday told police Tuesday that they heard a loud noise about the time of the explosion. None of them called police.

Inside City Hall Tuesday, city officials met to discuss security at the building. Afterward, they announced no major changes.

Several new measures were implemented before the bombing, including limiting access to City Hall before and after business hours and restricting access to the stairwell and other areas for employees only.

More panic buttons that summon police also were installed throughout the building recently.

Officials are considering buying video cameras for the building’s five entrances, which are now secured with only locks and floodlights.

“Basically, we just lock the doors and that’s it,” Hubbard said.

There are no plans to buy metal detectors, said Diana Levin, the city’s risk manager. State law allows metal detectors only at airports or public buildings with courtrooms, she said.

Any new security measures would have to be balanced against rights to public access, Levin said.

Heightened security “creates more of a feeling of alienation, hostility and aloneness” among people, some of whom are already distrustful of government, Levin said. “It creates an us-against-them, them-against-me mentality.”

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn Staff writer Staff writer Jim Lynch contributed to this report.


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