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Arrest made in MLK parade bomb plot

Image: Kevin William Harpham
Bomb plot suspect Kevin William HarphamKXLY TV via AP
/ Source: NBC, msnbc.com and news services

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.



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.

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.

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.