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Bombs Rattle North Idaho City

September 29, 1986

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) _ Three bombs, one at the federal building, exploded in Coeur D’Alene on Monday and state police and firefighters spread out over rooftops throughout the city to check for other bombs.

A fourth bomb was found atop the armed forces recruiting center, but was detonated safely by bomb-squad experts.

″We’re having an emergency at this time,″ said a spokeswoman for the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

″I believe people are scared,″ Police Chief Frank Premo said as he stood on the city’s main street, one block from a maze of cordoned-off areas marking the blast sites. ″But for today, at least, I think it’s over.″

There were no immediate reports of injuries or estimates of damage, but the federal building blast shattered windows three blocks away.

There was no warning of the blasts, but bomb threats were received at a newspaper and at a college which held a rally protesting the white supremacist Aryan Nations. There were no explosions at the paper or the school.

All city and county police officers were mobilized, federal agents were sent in and a bomb squad was called in from nearby Spokane, Wash.

A state police officer at the scene told a reporter that roofs were being checked throughout this northern Idaho city because authorities believed someone thew a number of bombs onto roofs sometime during the night.

The fourth bomb was found after garbage sacks wrapped tightly with duct tape were spotted atop the recruiting building. ″They’re something that shouldn’t be there,″ Premo said.

Authorities believed all the bombs, equipped with timing devices, were tossed from moving vehicles, Premo said.

The first bomb exploded just after 9 a.m. in a basement window well at the federal building.

″It just went boom 3/8″ said Shelley Zielinski, who watched from her office across the street as smoke billowed out after the federal building explosion.

Eight minutes later, a bomb ripped open the roof and wall of the Gibbs Mercantile Building a mile and a half away. Nine minutes after that the third bomb exploded outside the Jax Restaurant, about four blocks from the first blast.

″I looked up and thought the furnace had gone up,″ said Jim Boyer, owner of New Era Telephone Communications, which has its office in the Gibbs Building. ″But then I could smell gunpowder.″

Authorities said the Gibbs Building bomb appeared to go off on a part of the roof accessible from the ground by ladder.

The blast at the federal building shattered windows three blocks away, authorities said, while the explosion outside the restaurant created a crater at the base of a tree.

The Gibbs Building bomb was placed near the desk of Lohman Catron, owner of the Luggage Rack. Boyer said Catron had called in just minutes before to say he’d be late for work.

″If Lohman was at his desk, he would have been history,″ Boyer said. He said no threats had been made against him or Catron.

The Coeur D’Alene Press and North Idaho College, where a human-rights rally last week denounced the white-supremacist views of the Aryan Nations, headquartered nearby, both received telephoned bomb threats.

A volunteer crew continued operations at the Press, an afternoon newspaper, while most workers were evacuated while a bomb squad from Spokane checked the premises. Nothing was found, editor Jim Borden said.

In recent months, Kootenai County has been the site of several confrontations over civil rights. It is headquarters of the white-supremacist Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Aryan Nations).

Last July, the Aryan Nations sponsored a nationwide convention on white supremacy at its compound in Hayden Lake, just north of Coeur d’Alene.

The blasts came less than two weeks after a bomb damaged the home of the Rev. Bill Wassmuth, chairman of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Rights. No one was injured in that blast, and an investigation continues.

At the Federal Building in Fargo, N.D., a police bomb squad disarmed a pipe bomb discovered in the mail on Aug. 20. The package was addressed to U.S. District Judge Paul Benson.

Authorities assume that bomb was sent by the same person or persons responsible for a package that exploded two days earlier at the Fargo Post Office, slightly injuring four postal workers.

Benson has presided over some controversial cases, including the murder trials of tax protester Gordon Kahl and three associates and Indian activist Leonard Peltier.

Officials have checked out possible connections with those and other cases but still have no solid suspects in the bombings, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Annear.

Since then, Benson has appeared in court only once and U.S. marshals have kept him under around-the-clock armed guard at an undisclosed location.

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