A Moses Lake man was arrested after a sheriff’s deputy discovered bomb-making materials in his car during a routine traffic stop Thursday afternoon.
Ryan S. Palmer, 39, allegedly told investigators he had toyed with the idea of blowing up an agricultural products plant where he used to work – just to “prove a point” – and invoked the name of the Oklahoma City bomber. A detective wrote that Palmer “had everything needed to make a functional fertilizer bomb.”
Palmer, who appears to have no prior criminal record, was arraigned Friday afternoon on charges of second-degree burglary and second-degree attempted malicious explosion of a substance, both felonies. His bond was set at $100,000, and he remained in jail late Friday.
According to court records and a news release from the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy believed Palmer was driving with a suspended license and pulled him over near the entrance of the REC Silicon plant, which makes materials for solar panels, shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday. The sheriff’s office said REC Silicon did not appear to be Palmer’s target.
After calling for a tow truck, the deputy began documenting the contents of Palmer’s 1998 BMW and saw what appeared to be an explosive device in the back seat, the records state. Palmer allegedly told the deputy it would be a “bad idea” to move the car because of the explosives inside.
The deputy called for backup and summoned a Washington State Patrol bomb squad from Richland. The bomb squad “rendered the device safe around 11 p.m.,” the sheriff’s office said.
According to court records, Palmer had “everything needed” to build a bomb inside his car, including fertilizer, an antifreeze bottle he had filled with diesel fuel, a mortar he had made from a PVC pipe, gunpowder and a plastic syringe. In an interview with investigators, Palmer said he had found bomb-making instructions on the internet.
Ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel combine to create an explosive compound called ANFO, which is used commercially and in improvised bombs.
During the interview, Palmer said he had planned to target Nutrien Ag Solutions, where he had worked as a driver until 2015. The agricultural company has a Moses Lake plant in the area where Palmer was pulled over.
Palmer said he believed the agriculture industry had a poor safety record and blamed Nutrien for his daughter’s birth defects, according to court records. He said he had wandered around the Nutrien facility on more than 20 occasions to demonstrate what he perceived as lax security measures, noting that no employees had confronted him, the records state.
On one occasion in recent weeks, Palmer said he had gone to the facility at night and entered a building to check the expiration date on a fire extinguisher as well as electrical wiring, which he believed was not up to code. On another occasion, he said he had stolen multiple bags and jugs of fertilizer from the plant’s main storage warehouse.
Palmer said he had driven through the facility during business hours, too, “to prove if someone wanted to blow up the facility and do some damage, how easy it would be,” according to court records. He said that “taking out Nutrien would cause so much chemical and harmful material into the air it would be catastrophic.”
Palmer described at least four ways he might deliver an explosive payload, according to court records. One method involved a bulldozer, another involved lighting magnesium like a fuse, and another involved a projectile.
Palmer also asked a detective if he’d heard of Timothy McVeigh, the domestic terrorist who decimated a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds of others.
Yet Palmer insisted he did not intend to follow through with an attack. According to court records, he said he had planned to visit another Nutrien facility in the Tri-Cities and demonstrate what he was capable of.
“Once at the other facility, Ryan was going to talk to management and show them everything he had stolen and explain how dangerous and easy it would be for someone who wanted to do some damage to succeed,” the records state.
Nutrien spokesman Will Tigley said the company was cooperating with law enforcement but declined to comment on matters under investigation, including whether Palmer ever worked for Nutrien.
The sheriff’s office said the investigation would continue, with WSP officials analyzing evidence.
“The importance and value of traffic stops can never be overstated,” the sheriff’s office said on Twitter. “Another potential (worse) crime was stopped once again thanks to a cop pulling over a car for a traffic violation.”
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