FBI Investigating Bomb Attempt At King Day Parade

This story hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, mostly because the bomb didn’t go off:

The FBI is investigating whether racial bias could have played a role in the apparent attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., officials said Wednesday.

Three city employees spotted an unattended black backpack on a bench about an hour before the parade honoring the slain civil rights leader was to start on Monday. When they looked inside and saw wires, they alerted Spokane police, who defused a potentially lethal explosive device, officials said.

No one was injured in the incident, which came amid growing concern nationally over what authorities call a wave of homegrown terrorism. But if the bomb had gone off, it could have caused multiple deaths or injuries, officials said.

“The device appeared to be operational, it appeared to be deadly, and it was intended to inflict multiple casualties,” said Special Agent Frederick Gutt, a spokesman for the FBI’s Seattle field office.

Law enforcement sources familiar with the device, which is being analyzed at the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., said it had a remote detonator and was positioned so that any blast would have been directed at the crowd of marchers. “Someone obviously took some time with it,” said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is unfolding.

There’s been a history of white supremacist activity in the Pacific Northwest in the past, although it’s mostly been confined to Idaho. Whether that’s the source of this potentially devastating threat or not is unclear.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Terrorism, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    On TPM they had a quote from a bomb expert in Spokane that said it was the deadliest of this type of device (truck bombs like in Oklahoma City are of course bigger) he had ever seen on domestic soil–the casualties would’ve been unimaginable.

  2. mantis says:

    Those city employees who spotted the bag probably saved quite a few lives.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    This story hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, mostly because the bomb didn’t go off

    Lots of attempted bombings get lots of media attention. This one didn’t not because the bomb didn’t go off, but because it didn’t involve Muslims.

  4. john personna says:

    I think also Alex, there is a Tuscon aftermath thing. A lot of people pinned their entire analysis on that assailant’s lack of known Tea Party connections. Anyone in that position must treat this as … hang fire, to use the gun metaphor.

  5. RGardner says:

    Most of the white supremacists in Idaho have been in the Idaho Panhandle and Spokane is the nearest large city to that area being only ~20 miles from the Idaho border. However most of the extremist activities in the area are history – when was the last time you heard anything about Randy Weaver (Ruby Ridge was 1992!)?

  6. john personna says:

    So Doug, what about this one?

    As I said, the thing about hanging so much on Lautner mental state is that there’s always another one.

  7. john personna says:

    heh, funny spell check suggestion, that. Loughner.

  8. anjin-san says:

    < This one didn’t not because the bomb didn’t go off, but because it didn’t involve Muslims.

    Hear hear. The far right is freaking out over the appointment of a Muslim judge, yet a sophisticated and potentially very deadly terror plot against a MLK event does not seem to hold much interest…