A man arrested in a bomb threat at Pleasant Glade Elementary, in Thurston County, is also suspected in two Olympia bank robberies.
Teofilo P. Taufaasee, 23, turned himself in Tuesday and was booked into the Thurston County jail. He appeared before Judge Chris Lanese on Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court. The judge set bail at $500,000.
Lanese found probable cause for two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree malicious placement of an explosive, two counts of threats to bomb or injure, and two counts of felony harassment.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Lippert said Taufaasee has a relatively minor criminal history, including burglary convictions. He asked for high bail in the case, alleging that Taufaasee tried to instill fear in the community by leaving false bombs at various locations.
“In this case, your honor, the charges are extremely concerning and disturbing,” Lippert said.
Olympia police realized Taufaasee was likely connected to the Olympia robberies while assisting the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office with its investigation, said Lt. Paul Lower of the Olympia Police Department.
“Things started coming together, and we realized this was our guy,” Lower said.
On Feb. 20, Taufaasee allegedly entered the Olympia Federal Savings Bank in downtown Olympia and placed what looked like an explosive device on the counter.
He also left a note, written in all capital letters, that read, “FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS OR EVERYONE DIES!!! I HAVE AN EXPLOSIVE. NO ALARMS, NO GPS BILLS, NO DYE PACKS, NO BANDS, NO POLICE. EMPTY ALL REGISTERS 100S, 50S, 20S. FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN THE DEATH OF INNOCENT LIVES. I ONLY HAVE MY LIFE TO LOSE,” according to court documents.
Taufaasee left with an undisclosed amount of money, scaled an adjacent building and shed some of his clothes, according to court documents.
The incident closed downtown Olympia for several hours, and police evacuated several nearby businesses. The Washington State Patrol bomb squad also responded. Taufaasee wasn’t identified as a suspect at the time.
On April 14, Taufaasee allegedly threatened to bomb Pleasant Glade Elementary, near Lacey.
He left a note with an employee, reading, “YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN AS A PAWN IN A DANGEROUS WAR. 5 PROPANE TANKS RIGGED WITH EXPLOSIVES HAVE BEEN PLACED INSIDE THE SCHOOL READY TO BE REMOTELY TRIGGERED IF MY DEMANDS AREN’T MET. YOU WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF THESE YOUNG LIVES,” according to court documents.
In the note, Taufaasee allegedly demands that school staff wait 10 minutes to notify police and that school staff notify KOMO News of the situation. However, the note doesn’t outline what Taufaasee wanted to achieve.
Taufaasee again left behind what appeared to be an explosive device, according to court documents.
Thurston County investigators now believe that the threat at the school was a diversion from planned bank robberies on Martin Way. He entered two nearby Key Bank locations shortly after the threats were made and was contacted by a bank employee, according to court documents. No robberies occurred.
On April 18, Olympia police officers responded to reports of another bank robbery, this time at Sound Credit Union. Taufaasee allegedly entered the bank and handed an employee a note written on a KeyBank business card. The note indicated he had a gun and a remote bomb.
Fingerprints on the card belonged to Taufaasee, according to court documents.
Several tips were made to Crimestoppers, and law enforcement identified Taufaasee as the suspect in the Pleasant Glade Elementary incident. Detectives went to Taufaasee’s parents’ house, and they identified him as the man in surveillance footage from all three incidents, according to court documents.
In the garage, detectives found a backpack containing an apparent explosive device, a jar of gasoline and another hand-written note. This one referenced River Ridge High School, threatening to bomb the school unless he was given $300,000.
Police evacuated the neighborhood and again called the Washington State Patrol bomb squad. The device wasn’t an actual explosive, according to court documents.