IDAHO FALLS – A bomb squad defused 17 explosive devices found in an eastern Idaho home following a standoff sheriff’s deputies had with a man who they say threatened to blow them up.
A negotiator eventually talked 53-year-old Mike Farmer into surrendering peacefully, but it took the Twin Falls Bomb Squad until Friday morning to find and defuse the 17 bombs and secure four unfinished bombs found in the home.
Farmer was charged Friday in 7th District Court with four felonies: use of a destructive device, unlawful possession of a destructive device, theft by extortion, and aggravated assault on a police officer. He was also charged with telephone harassment, a misdemeanor.
He was being held Saturday in the Bonneville County Jail on $500,000 bond.
Besides local authorities, federal officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigating.
Greg Rix of the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office told the Associated Press on Saturday that the explosives were “fertilizer bombs,” made of fertilizer and diesel fuel.
A two-ton combination of the mixture packed in a cargo truck partially destroyed the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.
Rix said the amount found by the Twin Falls Bomb Squad amounted to about 20 pounds.
He said Farmer told his former wife he was planning to blow up the house if he wasn’t paid part of the value of the house.
According to police reports, the standoff with Farmer began Thursday when sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house at about 12:30 p.m. to arrest him for allegedly making harassing phone calls to his former wife.
Police said Farmer grabbed a bomb and threatened to blow up the deputies and then retreated to his basement.
Deputies called the Bonneville County SWAT team, which surrounded the house about 13 miles northeast of Idaho Falls. A negotiator talked Farmer into surrendering about 3 p.m. Thursday.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Doug Metcalf said Farmer has experience with explosives – making and using them for construction demolition and well drilling.
Authorities closed off a 1,000-foot perimeter around the house and called the Twin Falls Bomb Squad. The squad arrived about five hours later and worked through the night finding and defusing the devices.
Roger Smart of the Idaho Falls Police Department said Idaho Falls and Pocatello don’t have bomb squads because of the cost – about $300,000 to set one up.
But Metcalf said the incident with Farmer illustrated the need for one in eastern Idaho.
“It’s nice to have somebody right here and now,” he told the Post Register.
The Twin Falls Bomb Squad was beefed up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to improve national defense. The agency has a robot, a $30,000 bomb suit, a real time X-ray machine, and disarming tools.
It is one of four bomb squads in the state. The other three are in southwestern Idaho.