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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ex-Military Surplus Dealer Testifies He Recognized Bombers’ Weapons

A former military surplus dealer told jurors Tuesday he recognized the Spokane Valley bombers’ guns and sold them their clothes.

He said suspect Robert Berry told him he painted a pistol black before one crime, while suspect Charles Barbee urged him to “watch the news” the day before another.

Testifying for the prosecution, Christopher Davidson Jr. said Berry even told him what kind of explosives were packed in a pipe bomb set off at the Valley Planned Parenthood clinic last summer.

Defense attorneys suggested Davidson - now living in a new town under an assumed name - masterminded the terrorism spree, fingered his friends and made off with a $130,000 reward.

Barbee, 45, Berry, 43, and Verne Jay Merrell, 51, are on trial for the second time - accused of bombing Valley offices of the clinic, The Spokesman-Review and a U.S. Bank branch, and twice robbing the bank on April 1 and July 12, 1996.

Their first trial ended in April in a hung jury when one member of the panel refused to convict on the most serious charges.

Neither Davidson’s testimony - nor his hours of sparring with defense attorneys - changed much Tuesday.

In the same jumpy, nervous way he did before, the government’s star witness maintained he came forward because he feared someone might get hurt.

“I believed that the next time they set off a bomb, a load of school kids would be walking by and they would kill a bunch of innocent people,” Davidson said.

The former Coeur d’Alene gun dealer, who helped supply the trio with much of their survivalist gear, spent the morning explaining how he slowly came to believe his friends were the elusive Valley bombers and robbers.

Davidson said he recognized the clothing and weapons from bank surveillance videos aired during TV newscasts and photos published in newspapers.

He spent the rest of the day defending his inability to get the defendants to admit their involvement during hours of secretly recorded telephone conversations.

“Yes, Charles Barbee and Robert Berry said things to me that led me to believe they were involved in these crimes,” Davidson snapped. “But I believed there was no chance they would say anything incriminating on the phone.”

In a move reminiscent of O.J. Simpson’s struggle to tug on a bloody glove, defense attorneys had Barbee, who is 5 feet 6, model a parka Davidson said was the same size and type as those used in the crimes.

The parka bunched up around Barbee’s fists and hung below his knees.

Davidson again said Berry owned a rare Italian shotgun and a Ruger Vaquero handgun - weapons federal agents claim were used in the crimes. He testified that the men “considered themselves at war with the federal government.”

He also said the men told him they sent follow-up letters to the clinic and the bank last September, warning the businesses to “rescind their bounty.”

But during cross-examination, Davidson said he accepted immunity from prosecution merely because the FBI offered it. He said it was only coincidence that he came forward after the reward reached six figures.

And when defense attorneys played several of the 10 taped conversations Davidson had with the suspects - revealing nothing incriminating, the witness defensively said he’d been afraid to ask pointed questions.

“I believed if I was doing that, it would cause them alarm,” he said.

Barbee, Berry and Merrell are charged with eight felonies and face life imprisonment without parole if convicted.

Cross-examination of Davidson continues today.

, DataTimes

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