Image: Kevin William Harpham
Bomb plot suspect Kevin William Harpham
NBC, and news services
updated 3/9/2011 7:21:39 PM ET 2011-03-10T00:21:39

A man with ties to the white supremacist movement was arrested and charged Wednesday in the foiled bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade in this city last January.

Kevin William Harpham, of the Colville area in northeastern Washington, was charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of possessing an unregistered explosive device.

At a brief court appearance, Harpham waived a bail hearing and will remain in the Spokane County Jail for now. He can request a bail hearing at a later date, or wait until a grand jury decides on March 22 if he will be indicted.

A federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the suspect was a white supremacist.

Harpham, 36, was a member of the white supremacist National Alliance in 2004, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. But the center doesn't know when Harpham joined the group or whether he left it.

The National Alliance fell on hard times following the death of its founder William Pierce, author of a race novel that is believed to have influenced Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

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Harpham was also in the Army in 1996 and 1997, serving with the 37th Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Lewis, Wash., the Southern Poverty Law Center's records showed.

NBC station KHQ TV of Spokane reported that Harpham was arrested earlier Wednesday at his home about 75 miles north of Spokane.

Neighbors said another person at the home was also questioned, KHQ reported.

The bomb, which had a remote detonator and the ability to cause mass casualties, was defused without incident but unnerved residents of Spokane, especially those who took part in a parade whose theme was steeped in peace and nonviolence.

The attempt raised the possibility of a racial motive in a region that has been home to the white supremacist group Aryan Nations.

In addition to the bomb, the backpack contained two T-shirts that authorities analyzed for clues.

Officials praised as heroes the three city workers who spotted the backpack about an hour before the parade was to start on Jan. 17. They looked inside, saw wires and immediately alerted law enforcement.

Story: FBI: Bomb found on MLK march route

The bomb was carefully placed on a metal bench with a brick wall behind that would have directed shrapnel toward Main Street, where marchers were expected to pass, investigators said.

Aryan Nations
Spokane has 200,000 residents and is about 100 miles south of the Canadian border.

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, 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.

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The most visible was by the Aryan Nations, whose leader Richard Butler gathered racists and anti-Semites at his compound for more than two decades. Butler went bankrupt, lost the compound in a civil lawsuit in 2000 and died in 2004.

In 1996, white supremacists placed a pipe bomb outside City Hall in Spokane. The bomb exploded, blowing out a window and sending nails and screws across the street.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: FBI, police seek help in MLK parade bomb plot

  1. Closed captioning of: FBI, police seek help in MLK parade bomb plot

    >>> co." a call for help in washington state this morning. police want to know if anyone saw anything during a martin luther king parade on monday. a potentially lethal bomb was found in a backpack and now the search is on for who planted it. pete williams joins us from washington. pete, do investigators have any significant leads?

    >> that's what they say, chris. one of the avenues they're exploring is whether this was the work of white supremacist groups that are in that area of the country. white supremacist or racist groups. but you said you talked about seeing something and saying something, that's how this device was discovered before the start of monday's unity parade in spokane. it was seen by some city workers and safely defused and that in itself is a lead for investigators because the bomb wasn't destroyed, so they're analyzing it now. they're also putting out pictures of what the bomb was in. it was in a black swiss army brand backpack and wrapped in two t-shirts and they're hoping the shirts might jog somebody's memory. they have pictures of the shirts. one is for an area relay race this year and the other says treasure island spring of 2009 and they're hoping that that may jog somebody's memory. they may know somebody who had shirts like that or at that event and had a backpack like that. to help sweeten someone's memory the fbi is offering a reward of $20,000 for information to help crack this case. they're also asking for anybody that was in that area. the corner where this device was placed at the time it was put there, which they say was between 8:00 in the morning and 9:30 on monday morning, chris.

    >> horrible, horrible stuff. thank you so much, pete. i know you'll keep us updated on the investigation.

    >> you bet.


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