The man suspected of planting a backpack bomb along a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., appeared briefly in U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon. Kevin William Harpham, 36, had been arrested earlier in day at his house near the small community of Addy, about 50 miles north of Spokane. He is charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of knowingly possessing an improvised explosive device.
The Seattle Times described Harpham as “a big-shouldered man with rumpled short brown hair and stubble on his face,” and said he gave single-word answers to U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno. Harpham’s public defender waved his bail hearing, and Imbrogno said his next court appearance will be March 23, after a federal grand jury considers whether to indict him.
If convicted on the weapon of mass destruction charge, Harpham faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
A source familiar with the investigation told the Times that DNA evidence and purchases of electronic components led investigators to Harpham.
…the source familiar with the investigation said authorities were able to link Harpham to purchases of bomb components, including a remote car starter and other electronics. The purchases were traced to various stores, and at least one purchase was made with a debit card, the source said Wednesday evening.
A second source told the Times that the bomb contained a “low explosive” surrounded by lead pellets “and a white powder that has tested to be rat poison.”
After the announcement of Harpham’s arrest on Wednesday, The Southern Poverty Law Center announced that its records showed Harpham was in 2004 a member of the National Alliance, a white supremacist group. The National Alliance was founded by the William Pierce, author of the race war novel “The Turner Diaries.”
When contacted by TPM, National Alliance Chairman Erich Gliebe said Harpham is not a member of his group.
“Kevin Harpham is NOT a member of the National Alliance and I do NOT
recognize his name,” Gliebe wrote in an email. “Perhaps he was a member of the U.S. military at one time.”
When asked if Harpham was involved in white supremacist groups, U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby told TPM, “we’re not commenting on that.”
The SPLC also suggested that Harpham was once in the military, and the Army confirmed to the Times that Harpham “was stationed at Fort Lewis, now known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, from June 1996 to February 1999 as a fire-support specialist in the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment.”
Dorothy Slagle, the mayor of Kettle Falls, Wash., which is about 25 miles from Addy, told TPM it was her understanding that Harpham had gone to high school in Kettle Falls, but that the family had moved away some time ago.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com