Police investigating improvised bombs and an arson fire in Pullman, Moscow

May 7, 2019

Pullman police began searching for an arsonist after a fire destroyed a laser tag arena on Sunday, the same day a device resembling a pipe bomb was discovered in a city park.

Days earlier, another improvised explosive was found in a mobile home just across the state line in Moscow.

No arrests have been made in connection with any of the three incidents, and it’s unclear if they are related.

“We’re asking the same questions,” Pullman police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said Monday. “We don’t have any answers yet.”

The fire at the Cougar Laser Arena on South Grand Avenue was started sometime before 2 a.m. Sunday.

A fire department paramedic spotted smoke as he passed the building while returning from Pullman Regional Hospital, Mayor Glenn Johnson said in a news release.

After firefighters doused the blaze, investigators found several ignition points inside the building, as well as evidence of vandalism, Johnson said.

The fire didn’t affect the structure of the building, which also houses offices for a car dealership, Johnson said. But the interior of the laser tag arena was damaged by fire, smoke and water. Some arcade games in the building also may have been damaged.

“It is a sad day indeed,” the business said in a Facebook post Sunday morning. “Luckily no one was injured. The facility sustained heavy damage and it is unknown at this time when we will be reopen. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we go through this difficult time.”

Fire investigators handed the case to Pullman police on Monday.

The first explosive device was reported Wednesday afternoon at the Robinson Mobile Home Court in Moscow.

Moscow police Capt. Roger Lanier told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News a maintenance worker had found the device inside a home. He said it resembled “a big M-80 wrapped in electrical tape with a fuse.”

Police and fire personnel responded along with local FBI agents, and the Spokane Explosive Disposal Unit arrived a few hours later.

The bomb squad determined the device was active and disabled it.

The second device was reported by a passerby at about 8 a.m. Sunday at the city sports fields in Pullman.

Chief Gary Jenkins said officers found what appeared to be a pipe bomb beside electrical panels on the west side of the fields, near a walking and bike path.

“Evidence was found at the scene of attempts to light the fuse,” Jenkins said in a news release.

The Spokane bomb squad responded again, and the device was sent to the state forensic lab for further examination.