SPOKANE - The hunt for the person who left the bomb targeting marchers in Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. parade will focus on two aspects: forensics and the region's violent history with white supremacists.
Frank Harrill, the special agent in charge of the Spokane office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, confirmed late Wednesday that two recent protests by white supremacists in Coeur d’Alene will be part of the effort to identify those responsible for leaving the bomb on the northeast corner of Washington Street and Main Avenue.
“We will examine every avenue,” Harrill said. “We are reaching far and wide in terms of what we are looking at. That certainly will be one of them.”
Tony Stewart, a member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said neo-Nazis used signs on Friday to protest two Mexican restaurants and then about 15 neo-Nazis protested a human rights event Monday.
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“Then we hear about the bomb in Spokane,” Stewart said. “There would be no question that since it was planted directly on the path of the Martin Luther King Jr. march, that it has to be connected to hate crimes. It was an attempt to injure and kill people because they were out there promoting the equality of human rights. The evidence is just too overwhelming.”
Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said her department’s Central Intelligence Unit has reported an increase in hate literature and other white supremacist activity over the past two years, “but nothing in the two weeks as a precursor to this event.”
The bomb discovered Monday in a Swiss Army brand backpack was sent Wednesday to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., Harrill said. Investigators have not yet arrested anyone in connection with the bomb, which officials characterize as a thwarted attempt at domestic terrorism that could have caused multiple casualties.
Sources who received security briefings Tuesday described a sophisticated bomb that could have been detonated remotely.
Harrill said he could not discuss whether investigators believe the person who left the backpack remained in the area. Investigators continue to seek anyone who took photographs or video in the area between 8 and 11 a.m. on Monday, he added.
While Harrill said he hopes to make a quick arrest, he added: “A lot of this is going to turn, in part, on results of the lab analysis. Even though we will get an expedited handling of the evidence, it sometimes takes days to complete.”
Stewart, too, said his organization has tracked a number of troubling events, even though the efforts don’t seem to be well funded and don’t have a central meeting point, such as the now-defunct Aryan Nations compound north of Hayden Lake.
In 2009, someone spread hate literature throughout North Idaho and Spokane Valley, Stewart said.
There was a lull in activity, until the events last week, he said.
“Now we have this reemergence. Here we are facing something that is not to be taken lightly,” Stewart said.