SPOKANE, Wash. - The FBI offered a reward Tuesday for information about a potentially lethal bomb found in a backpack along the downtown route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
The discovery before Monday's parade for the slain civil rights leader raised the possibility of a racial motive in a region that has been home to the white supremacist Aryan Nations.
"The confluence of the holiday, the march and the device is inescapable," said Frank Harrill, special agent in charge of the Spokane FBI office. "But we are not at the point where we can draw any particular motive."
He called the planting of the bomb an act of domestic terrorism that was clearly designed to advance a political or social agenda.
The suspicious backpack was spotted by three city employees about an hour before the parade was to start, Harrill said. They looked inside, saw wires and immediately alerted law enforcement.
The parade route was changed to avoid the device. A bomb disposal unit disabled it without incident, he said.
Harrill declined to release details of the device, other than to call it a functional bomb that could have caused multiple casualties.
"The potential for injury and death were clearly present," Harrill said.
The FBI received no warnings in advance and did not have a suspect, Harrill said. No one has claimed credit for planting the bomb.
The agency decided to appeal to the public for information and offered the $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
"Subject should be considered armed and dangerous," the agency said in its announcement.
The agency released photos of the backpack and two shirts found inside.
Another explosive device was found March 23 beside the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse in downtown Spokane. No arrests have been made in that investigation, Harrill said, and agents didn't know if the two incidents were related.
The Spokane region and adjacent northern Idaho have had numerous incidents of anti-government and white supremacist activity during the past three decades.
The most visible was by Aryan Nations, whose leader Richard Butler gathered racists and anti-Semites at his compound for two decades. Butler was bankrupted and lost the compound in a civil lawsuit in 2000 and died in 2004.
In December, a man in Hayden, Idaho, built a snowman on his front lawn shaped like a member of the Ku Klux Klan holding a noose. The man knocked the pointy-headed snowman down after getting a visit from sheriff's deputies.
SUBJECT(S) SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS/CONTACT THE FBI AT: Telephone (206)622-0460; Email firstname.lastname@example.org; Fax (206)262-2587
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner today stressed that the safety of all citizens and visitors is the paramount concern of the City of Spokane as the investigation continues into an explosive device found on Monday near the Martin Luther King Jr. Day annual Unity March.
"I was struck that on a day when we celebrate Dr. King, a champion of non-violence, we were faced with a significant violent threat," says Mayor Verner. "This is unacceptable in our community—or any community."
The Mayor stressed that the City of Spokane is working closely with the FBI, who has the lead on the investigation. The Spokane Police Department will stay involved as the investigation proceeds.
"We will work to protect our citizens in light of this threat to our safety," says Mayor Verner. "The eyes and ears in our community must remain ever vigilant. I commend the person who took the time to check out something suspicious, and the law enforcement officials who handled the situation so professionally."
Friday, May 24 2013 4:52 PM EDT2013-05-24 20:52:07 GMT
KHQ.COM - A driver said he thought he was about to die when an Interstate 5 bridge span collapsed in Washington state, plunging his pickup and another car into the Skagit River below.>>
KHQ.COM - A driver said he thought he was about to die when an Interstate 5 bridge span collapsed in Washington state, plunging his pickup and another car into the Skagit River below. Dan Sligh, his wife and another motorist found themselves waist-deep in water when the freeway crumbled moments after the bridge was clipped by an oversized truck.>>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:07 PM EDT2013-05-25 01:07:50 GMT
Thursday's bridge collapse into the Skagit River has many people wondering how safe the bridges are in Spokane County.>>
Thursday's bridge collapse into the Skagit River has many people wondering how safe the bridges are in Spokane County. According to a recent Washington State Department of Transportation study, Spokane County has 12 'Structurally Deficient' bridges.>>
Friday, May 24 2013 11:05 AM EDT2013-05-24 15:05:57 GMT
SPOKANE, Wash. - Late Thursday evening police responded to an armed robbery at the Zip Trip on Madison and Wellesley in North Spokane.>>
SPOKANE, Wash. - Late Thursday evening police responded to an armed robbery at the Zip Trip on Madison and Wellesley in North Spokane. A man walked into the Zip Trip, ordered everyone to the ground and demanded cash. He got away with an undisclosed amount of money.>>