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Explosions at Newspaper Office, Bank Believed Connected

April 2, 1996

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Minutes after a pipe bomb exploded outside a newspaper office, two men in military-style fatigues and ski masks robbed a nearby bank, ordered people outside and set off a second bomb.

The twin bombings Monday resembled crimes carried out by a neo-Nazi group in the Northwest in the 1980s. However, investigators wouldn’t speculate on who may have been behind Monday’s blasts.

No injuries were reported, but both buildings were heavily damaged.

Investigators believe the pipe bomb explosion at The Spokesman-Review’s Spokane Valley office was meant to divert attention from the bank robbery, Spokane County Sheriff John Goldman said. Witnesses saw a white and maroon van at both places.

``The blast shook the building violently,″ said Mike Schmeltzer, editor of the paper’s Valley Voice edition. ``(It) lifted all 200 pounds of me up and out of my chair. It blew off the plastic front of my computer monitor.″

Goldman refused to comment on a one-page, typewritten note with apparent biblical references left at the newspaper office. He also refused to discuss whether the bombings might be connected to an ongoing standoff between FBI agents and a right-wing group called the Freemen at a remote farm in Montana.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have joined the investigation.

The note, sealed in a plastic bag, was headed ``Greetings from Yahweh,″ said Greg Bever, Spokane Valley operations manager for the newspaper, who scanned the note before giving it to deputies.

``Yahweh″ is an English rendering of the Hebrew name for God. The term has also been used by some members of the Christian Identity movement, which is known to have ties to white-separatist organizations.

``It had a lot of religious quotes. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me,″ Bever said.

The newspaper also reported today that a man who saw the masked robbers leave the bank heard one of them yell, ``Tell the police not to mess with the militia.″ The newspaper did not identify the witness.

Shortly after the bank robbery, authorities found the van at a hardware store parking lot a few blocks from the bank. It was reported stolen over the weekend from a car dealership in Ellensburg, about 150 miles west of Spokane.

Authorities didn’t say how much money was taken in the bank robbery.

The blasts were reminiscent of Northwest bombings in 1984 and 1986 carried out by members of The Order, a violent offshoot of the white supremacist Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Aryan Nations), of Hayden Lake, Idaho.

In September 1986, three bombs exploded in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho _ one at the city’s federal building, a second at a luggage store and a third near a restaurant. A fourth bomb was found and defused. No one was injured.

Investigators said the bombings were diversions so members of the Order could rob a bank and a National Guard armory to finance a campaign for a white-supremacist revolution. Members of The Order were convicted in the case.

In 1984, two men with alleged ties to the Aryan Nations planted what appeared to be a bomb outside a Spokane clothing store. While authorities dismantled the device, two Order members robbed a Spokane bank of $3,600.

A similar bombing was carried out in an X-rated theater in Seattle in 1984 while Order members got away with $250,000 in a North Seattle armored car robbery.

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