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Abandoned Truck Marked ‘Bomb’ Forces Evacuation of Downtown Seattle

July 16, 1996

SEATTLE (AP) _ An artist was arrested Monday after he claimed responsibility for abandoning a truck with ``bomb″ scrawled on its bumper, sparking a four-hour evacuation of Seattle’s downtown shopping district.

Jason Sprinkle, 26, surrendered to police at The Associated Press bureau, about 30 minutes after he called the news service to say there was no bomb and that he parked the truck at the edge of a downtown park as a protest.

Sprinkle was among a group of artists who previously have staged protests in downtown Seattle against re-opening a street through the city’s urban Westlake Park.

A nine-block area was evacuated after witnesses saw a man abandon a dilapidated white truck, which carried a large metallic sculpture of a human heart in its bed and the word ``bomb″ on its front bumper.

``All it was is art,″ Sprinkle said in his call to the AP. ``I didn’t even think it would be noticed.″

Sprinkle said the same heart sculpture was used in the past to protest plans to reopen Pine Street to car and truck traffic. The street runs through the middle of the block-wide park, where street musicians, peddlers and street people mingle with shoppers and office workers.

Sprinkle said he had gone to the Seattle Arts Commission earlier in the day and talked to them about the lack of support for some artists.

``Then I went and committed public art,″ he told the AP.

After Sprinkle made his call to the AP, he agreed to accompany a reporter to the news bureau and give himself up.

Shortly after Sprinkle was taken into custody, the truck was impounded and the area was reopened. Investigators were questioning Sprinkle late Monday night, and had not yet decided on charges.

Police used a bomb squad robot device to search the truck, and thousands of evacuees lined up outside the area, which was cordoned off by yellow police tape.

William Fulton, who was in the city shopping for a gift for his wife, said he saw a man park the truck at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street.

``He took a metal bar, punctured the tires, threw the bar back in the truck, grabbed a ... briefcase and walked off,″ Fulton said.

The evacuated area included the Westlake Center complex of shops and restaurants and the Nordstrom store, which are located on two sides of the urban park, and The Bon Marche department store a block away.

Also closed were the Metro bus tunnel station beneath the park and the Monorail station within Westlake Center.

In January 1995, a band of guerrilla artists placed a three-quarter-ton sculpture in the shape of a red-painted heart in the downtown plaza. The heart was pierced with a 12-foot dagger. On one side of the knife’s black handle was written ``Corporate Interests,″ while the other side read, ``Big Brother.″

Nordstrom Inc. executives had demanded reopening the street as a condition for proceeding with a $100 million renovation of the old Frederick & Nelson downtown store, across the street from Westlake Center. In March 1995, voters approved the reopening of the street.

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