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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Threats to blow up VA bring arrest

Elizabeth M. Gillespie Associated Press

SEATTLE – Federal agents arrested a man Monday after they say he had threatened to blow up the downtown office of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrested Charles M. Whitaker, 53, at a home in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in the city’s south end.

“We believe this man was potentially planning to take violent action against the local VA office,” said Ian Canaan, commander of the Federal Protective Service for Western Washington. “Whether this man would have carried out his threats is uncertain, but we cannot afford to take chances.”

Whitaker was being held at the King County Jail for investigation of threatening to bomb or damage property. He was scheduled to appear for a bail hearing this afternoon in King County Superior Court.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman in the immigration agency’s regional office in Southern California, said authorities were pursuing state charges first and also were consulting the local U.S. attorney’s office about whether federal charges are warranted.

The investigation began earlier this month after a former roommate of Whitaker’s told authorities that Whitaker had made repeated threats to blow up the VA office after being denied benefits.

In an affidavit, an agent quoted the ex-roommate as saying: “Whitaker told me that the VA would pay for denying his claim … and that he would get what he wanted from the VA one way or another. I believed that he meant that he would follow through on his threat to blow up the building.”

Whitaker claimed he had extensive bomb-making expertise from his stint in the military – claims corroborated by a second former roommate, according to the Federal Protective Service, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that provides security at federal buildings. The immigration agency is part of the Homeland Security Department.

Kice said officers found discharge papers during the raid indicating Whitaker had served as a photography technician in the Army in the early 1970s. Authorities had not yet determined if he served in the special forces, as he had claimed, Kice said.

Both roommates said Whitaker claimed to have a large stockpile of weapons, including rifles, handguns and ammunition.

Officers executed search warrants at the Beacon Hill home where Whitaker most recently rented a room Monday morning and found field manuals on bomb-making, booby traps and military explosives. Then they searched a storage unit he leased in Renton.

In a phone interview after the arrest, Canaan said officers also found narcotics at the home. At the storage unit, he said officers found two semiautomatic pistols, ammunition and a hand grenade, which they later determined was not live.

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