Tuesday’s break in the Spokane Valley bank robbery-bombing cases could help Planned Parenthood decide whether to open its rebuilt clinic as early as next week.
The clinic at 20 S. Pines was damaged by an explosion that served as a diversion while the bombers robbed a U.S. Bank branch several blocks away. The clinic has been closed since the July 12 blast.
“We’re just very hopeful that these are the people we have been worried about,” said Gail Ekins, president of the Planned Parenthood board. “We don’t feel like we can be sure yet.”
As word of the arrests of three suspects in the bombings and bank robberies spread Tuesday night, U.S. Bank and Planned Parenthood officials said they hope things can return to normal soon.
Bank and clinic administrators eagerly awaited word from federal investigators about a definite link between the arrests and the Valley incidents. While some were encouraged by bits of information that trickled in, all were careful about what they told employees.
“We just don’t want everybody on an emotional roller coaster,” one bank official said.
A Tuesday afternoon call from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms buoyed the spirits of Planned Parenthood administrators.
“Obviously, I’d be thrilled if those were the people,” Ekins said. “It would be a tremendous relief.”
But at the bank branch hit twice by robbers, officials were not taking chances.
Uniformed off-duty sheriff’s deputies still guard the bank at 9208 E. Sprague, which first was robbed on April 1 following an explosion at The Spokesman-Review’s Valley office. Tuesday afternoon, a green patrol car also was parked in front of the bank.
“Our security has not confirmed it’s the same guys,” said one bank employee.
Officials at the Sprague Avenue branch referred questions to U.S. Bank’s regional office in Seattle, where answers were even more cautious.
“The FBI hasn’t told us anything,” said spokeswoman Julie Joy. “This is all just hearsay. I can’t comment on anything that is speculation.”
Administrators at Planned Parenthood’s main office in Spokane couldn’t help but wonder whether there is a connection after ATF supervisory agent Bob Harper called to report “developments in the case,” Ekins said.
Harper refused to provide more details, she said.
However, the fact is encouraging that the ATF did not call the clinic two months ago after federal agents in Yakima had arrested a man initially thought to be linked to the bombings, Ekins said.
Despite the cautious tone, U.S. Bank officials also are hopeful the arrests will put an end to their anxiety.
“It would be nice to know and put closure on this thing,” a bank official said.