SEATTLE (Reuters) – A Washington state man accused of attempting to plant a backpack bomb at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade was indicted on federal charges on Tuesday.
Kevin William Harpham, 36, was indicted by a U.S. District Court jury in Spokane on one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of possessing an improvised explosive device.
Harpham — taken into custody at his home in Colville, Washington, on March 9 some seven weeks after the bomb was discovered along the parade route in Spokane — faces an arraignment on the charges on Wednesday.
A federal law enforcement official has said authorities were investigating whether the suspect had ties to white supremacists.
Officials from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group, say Harpham had been a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance in late 2004 and that he was in the U.S. military.
A spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the recently merged U.S. Army/Air Force base in Washington state, has confirmed that Harpham served at the former Fort Lewis Army base from 1996 to early 1999 as a fire support specialist.
The unattended backpack, with wires visible, was discovered on a downtown bench by three city workers who notified police about 30 minutes before the parade was scheduled to begin, the FBI said. The device in the backpack was largely concealed by two T-shirts packed inside.
The January 17 MLK day parade in Spokane, on the national holiday honoring the slain African-American civil rights leader and attended by about 1,500 people, was quickly rerouted while the city’s bomb disposal unit was summoned and safely “neutralized the device.”
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Jerry Norton)