A North Idaho man wanted in last year’s domestic terrorism in the Spokane Valley saw his life as a fugitive end abruptly Thursday in downtown Spokane.
Brian E. Ratigan was arrested when he went to the Amtrak depot a day earlier than the date printed on his one-way train ticket to New York.
There were no passenger trains scheduled through Spokane early Thursday, and his baggage handlers turned out to be undercover FBI agents who had been tipped off to his travel plans.
“He screwed up,” one Justice Department official said. “If he’d looked at his tickets, he would have seen they were for 1:30 a.m. on Friday.
“He was a day early, and the FBI was waiting.”
Ratigan told a government informant last November that “if the feds attempt to arrest him, they should be prepared to die,” court documents say.
But he was arrested Thursday without incident.
The 38-year-old former Army sniper is being held in the Spokane County Jail without bond, charged with five federal crimes.
He is accused in a federal complaint issued in late January of participating in the July 12 bombing at the Spokane Valley Planned Parenthood clinic and an armed robbery minutes later at a U.S. Bank branch which netted $37,000.
He also is charged with conspiracy and two counts of the use of a firearm during a crime of violence.
Ratigan was arrested two days after being identified in a newspaper report as the fourth suspect in the bombing and robbery case. The media attention made it harder for him to find refuge, so he tried to leave the area, federal authorities said Thursday.
He had been living in rural areas of North Idaho near Sandpoint but had moved frequently to avoid apprehension, authorities said.
Some of those who helped Ratigan hide could be charged with harboring a fugitive, authorities said.
Ratigan and his wife, Tina, and the couple’s two young sons were carrying one-way Amtrak tickets to Albany, N.Y.
They were dropped off at the Spokane Intermodal Transportation Center, 221 W. First, at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, hoping to catch a 1:30 a.m. eastbound train.
FBI agents were expected to get a search warrant to examine Ratigan’s luggage, which is believed to contain at least one firearm.
The person who dropped off the fugitive and his family is “an innocent party” and wasn’t arrested or charged, another federal official said. He wouldn’t comment when asked if that person was the informant.
Ratigan - a small, bearded man - said nothing when he appeared Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno.
His court appearance took place two floors below the federal courtroom where his alleged associates - Charles H. Barbee, Robert S. Berry and Verne Jay Merrell - are on trial for the Spokane Valley bombings and bank robberies on April 1 and July 12.
“This defendant (Ratigan) is a serious risk of flight,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks told the judge, and “he is a serious risk of obstructing justice.”
The judge followed the prosecutor’s recommendation and ordered Ratigan held without bond until a detention hearing Monday.
Ratigan’s wife, who was detained briefly and questioned by FBI agents, watched her husband’s court appearance.
She wouldn’t comment as she left the U.S. Court House. She was accompanied by Spokane attorney Lorraine Parlange, who also declined comment.
Ratigan faces charges associated only with the July 12 robbery and bombing.
The FBI has identified several North Idaho residents who apparently helped harbor Ratigan and joined him at a “prayer meeting” after the arrests of Barbee, Berry and Merrell last October.
One of those at the meeting heard Ratigan say “he had been involved” in the July 12 crimes, court documents say.
He wasn’t along when the other three men were arrested on Oct. 8. Court documents say Ratigan had been booted out of the Phineas Priesthood cell because he “did not have his house in order.”
“Ratigan had been fighting with his wife, and others on the bank robbery team did not believe his situation with his wife was ‘biblically right,”’ the documents add.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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