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Man arrested in attempted parade bombing in Spokane

Kevin William Harpham is arrested in connection with an attempted bombing during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Washington state.

March 09, 2011|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times

Federal officials have arrested a suspect in a bombing attempt that targeted a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in Spokane, Wash.

Kevin William Harpham, 36, of Colville, Wash., was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered explosive device. If convicted, Harpham faces life in prison.

Officials released few details on what Frank Harrill, special agent in charge of the FBI's Spokane office, described as a "very active" investigation. U.S. Atty. Michael Ormsby said agents searched Harpham's 10-acre property in rural Stevens County, north of Spokane, on Wednesday. Neither he nor Harrill would say whether more arrests were expected.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups, identified Harpham as a onetime member of the white supremacist National Alliance. Representatives of the National Alliance did not respond to a request for comment. Authorities declined to say whether Harpham had ties to white supremacist groups.

The bomb was discovered Jan. 17, half an hour before the march was scheduled to begin. Maintenance workers noticed an unattended backpack with wires protruding on a bench along the parade route and called police.

The parade was rerouted while the Spokane Explosives Disposal Unit neutralized the bomb. No one was harmed.

But the bomb scare hung over the town, recalling an ugly thread in Pacific Northwest history. The Aryan Nations was once based just across the Washington-Idaho border in Hayden Lake.

The Rev. Percy "Happy" Watkins, one of the Spokane march organizers, said the purported act of terrorism and potential ties to white supremacist groups brought to mind an uglier era in American race relations.

"It just puts a lump in your throat," he said.

But Watkins and city leaders said the region's past did not reflect Spokane today.

"No one wants to be strapped to a history," Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said. "Our community has come together and taken a very strong stance against this."

Along with the bomb, the backpack contained two T-shirts — one from the 2010 Stevens County Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser, and the other reading, "Treasure Island Spring 2009."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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