Three crude package bombs found Tuesday in the Republic post office apparently were intended to intimidate rather than injure anyone.
Ferry County Sheriff Pete Warner said the devices had fuses but lacked detonators which would have caused them to explode when the packages were opened.
One of the packages was addressed to Warner, one to Washington Gov. Mike Lowry and the third to a former address of a counselor who no longer lives in the county.
Warner declined to identify the counselor, who once worked at Ferry County Community Services.
The agency provides a wide variety of social services, including mental health counseling, drug and alcohol treatment and assistance in domestic violence cases.
Warner said he has no suspects, but he was reviewing case files Tuesday night with Republic Police Chief Chuck Kells and U.S. Postal Inspector Glen Porter.
“We have some ideas, but I don’t want to point the finger until we have more to go on,” said Undersheriff Mike George.
Although the bombs lacked detonators, a flame or spark could have ignited them.
“The devices themselves were not that large, but they are large enough that they could have caused considerable damage,” Kells said.
Postmaster Therall Pugliese said a customer reported the packages had been left in the post office lobby about 10:30 a.m. Pugliese thought the packages looked suspicious and summoned Warner.
Warner said the package addressed to him, unlike the others, lacked postage and had not been sealed. None of the packages was sent through the mail.
“When I first looked at it, I thought, ‘This is not good,”’ Warner said.
He said he got a glimpse of the bomb and a threatening note in the package addressed to him, but didn’t touch the others.
Police sealed off the post office and the block around it all day while waiting for a bomb squad to arrive from the Army’s Yakima Firing Range.
Escorted by the Washington State Patrol, the three-man squad arrived at 4:45 p.m.
Wearing padded suits and helmets, the soldiers X-rayed the packages and placed them in bomb-dampening containers for shipment to a federal crime lab.
The post office reopened at 6 p.m. so people could pick up mail.
Authorities had considered detonating the bombs in a safe location, but decided they were stable enough to transport to a lab.
Warner said each bomb consisted of some sort of hollow ball, like a tennis ball, that had been filled with what appeared to be black or smokeless gunpowder.
Each ball was covered with black insulating tape, he said.
Warner said he has “absolutely no idea” who might have been responsible, but noted the Sheriff’s Department received an anonymous bomb threat about two months ago.
The threat was false, and the courthouse was not evacuated.
It is possible the incidents are related, Warner said: “We’re looking into it.”
Kells is leading the investigation, but Warner said federal officials may take over. Sending bombs through the mail is a federal offense.
Kells tried to downplay the incident throughout the day, calling it “just a little situation at the post office,” when passers-by inquired.
“Bomb?” a man in a pickup truck asked as he drove by a barricade.
“I didn’t say that,” Kells replied, adding under his breath, “Lord knows, everybody else has.”
County Assessor John Sweetman said he was called upon to give his “first real public safety alert” on Republic Community Radio, which he said has less power than a three-cell flashlight.
Sweetman said he announced “what everybody else knows and they’re going to find out anyhow” - that there was a suspected bomb in the post office.
Most residents seemed not to take the threats too seriously and went about their business on nearby streets as though nothing were happening.
The greatest concern seemed to be from people who couldn’t get their mail.
“I’ll go up there and defuse the thing if we can get our mail.” Beverly Merrill joked before the bomb squad arrived. “I’m crazy enough to do it.”
Down the street at the Ferry County Co-op, though, Frank Jezierski confessed to being nervous about the possibility of an explosion. He said he was perfectly content to stay inside the restaurant and take care of the extra large lunch crowd of office workers displaced by the evacuation.
Republic resident Dorothy Butler, 83, was upset by the disruption of her small-town sense of security.
“I’ve lived her 50 years and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Butler said.
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