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Suspect Possessed a Military Sites List

Officials tighten security after a list of purported targets is found in the apartment of one of two men held in a string of South Bay robberies.

July 09, 2005|Greg Krikorian and David Rosenzweig | Times Staff Writers

It started late Tuesday night, when police closed in on two men they suspected in 10 robberies across the South Bay.

But the case took a strange twist hours later, when a search of one suspect's apartment uncovered documents suggesting that the men might be targeting local U.S. military facilities, law enforcement sources said Friday.

Now federal and local counterterrorism investigators have joined together to determine why two robbery suspects would have such lists.

Among the items purportedly found at the South Los Angeles home of Levar Haney Washington, 25, was a list of addresses that included the locations of at least one Army recruitment center and National Guard facilities, the sources said.

Lt. Col. Douglas Hart, public affairs director for the California National Guard, confirmed that Torrance police had notified Guard officials late Thursday of potential threats to facilities that he did not identify.

"We did receive word on three specific armories from the local police who initially got the information," Hart said. "We're aware of it, and we are proceeding appropriately to guard those facilities."

He would not say more about the alleged threats or locations, except that they were "in the Los Angeles area."

Hart also noted that all large National Guard installations were protected by armed personnel around the clock.

Although authorities emphasized that they were in the early stages of their investigation, an FBI counterterrorism task force has been assembled to determine whether Washington and Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21, were engaged in more than the 10 robberies with which they have been charged.

Reached by telephone Friday, Patterson's attorney, Winston McKesson, said he was confident that "once this investigation is done, it's going to be convincingly clear that Mr. Patterson in no way intended to take any aggressive action against his country."

Washington's attorney could not be reached for comment.

The two men, believed to be Islamic converts, were arrested about 10 p.m. Tuesday by Torrance police who had them under surveillance in connection with a string of robberies of gas stations and convenience stores from May 30 to July 3.

After the arrests, law enforcement sources said, investigators went to Washington's Los Angeles apartment and discovered the documents that drew the interest of counterterrorism officials. During a search Wednesday morning, Los Angeles police sent bomb technicians and bomb-sniffing dogs to be certain that there were no explosives at the apartment on West 27th Street. No explosives or bomb-making materials were found.

Washington and Patterson were in Torrance Superior Court on Thursday and held on bail of $2 million and $1 million, respectively. Although it was unclear whether Patterson had a criminal record, Washington could be facing his third strike in the robbery case, because he was convicted in Orange County in 1999 of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and belonging to a street gang.

On Friday, federal and local officials continued to refuse comment on the case other than to acknowledge that it was under investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The military installations were not the only addresses found on the list at Washington's apartment, sources said. It also included some public and private facilities that have previously been identified as potential terrorist targets, according to the sources. Those locations were not disclosed.

Washington's mother, who was in court Thursday, did not return a call seeking comment about the case.

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