January 19, 2011 in City, News

FBI praises those who ‘thwarted’ attack

By The Spokesman-Review
 


(Full-size photo)

As the search continues today for the person who left a bomb in a backpack along the planned route of the Martin Luther King Jr. march, the local FBI chief is thankful he doesn’t have to deal with one word in particular: carnage.

City employees discovered the backpack and alerted Spokane Police officials, who quickly rerouted the march away from the backpack, which was later confirmed to contain what federal investigators described as a lethal bomb that could have inflicted multiple casualties.

So instead of a region and nation mourning the loss of those marching to celebrate one of the most important figures in American history, federal investigators can instead focus solely on finding the person, said Frank Harrill, special agent in charge of the Spokane office of the FBI.

“Definitely this falls into the category of a thwarted attack,” Harrill said. “There are a lot of factors that went into that. But the first step was three alert citizens and workers who brought that device to the attention of authorities.

“Then acting with imperfect information, (Spokane Police officials) took quick and decisive action to reroute a march that could have proceeded headlong into a tragedy. While it’s impossible to predict what would have happened, it is clear there was a significant risk of death and injury for multiple people.”

Harrill said investigators do not yet have a person or persons in custody, but said they received “a number of fruitful leads” from the information released Tuesday to the public.

“We have no development that we can discuss publicly,” Harrill said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us. This will continue until we … find this individual or individuals and bring them into the criminal justice system.”

The bomb, which according to other security sources, contained a remote detonation device, has been shipped back to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., Harrill said. The backpack _ found at the northeast corner of Washington Street and Main Avenue _ did not contain any notes or any other written warning, he said.

“We had no foreshadowing or warning prefacing it. We have found nothing in terms of writings or communications to anyone,” Harrill said.

Asked if having a remote detonating device meant that investigators believe that someone had to be near or was near the device, Harrill responded: “That’s going to get right into the device construction, so I’m not going to get into that.”

The FBI issued a bulletin Tuesday offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. Harrill drew a direct link to the placement of the bomb along the planned route of the march and said if fell into the “sphere of domestic terrorism.”

Harrill said investigators continue to seek anyone who took photographs or video in the area between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Monday.

Investigators also expressed concern Tuesday about the placement of the bomb, which was found on a metal bench with a brick wall behind that would have directed shrapnel toward Main Street where marchers were expected to pass.

Newly elected Spokane County Commissioner Al French commented on the fact of the near miss for the Spokane community.

“It is appalling to think that a celebration to commemorate the life and work of Dr. King could have ended so tragically,” French said today in a prepared statement. “We cannot allow such acts to go unanswered or unpunished.”

Commissioner Mark Richard spoke at the re-routed event and only learned later of the potential threat to the hundreds of people and children in the march.

“If nothing else, this kind of violence shows us that we must continue Dr. King’s work for justice and peace,” he said.

In another prepared statement, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., expressed her concern about the discovery of the bomb.

“I strongly condemn the individual or group who is responsible,” McMorris Rodgers said. “We thank the city workers who discovered the backpack and alerted the authorities.”

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