SPOKANE, Wash. — A bomb left along the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade was sophisticated, with a remote detonator and the ability to cause many casualties, an official familiar with the case said yesterday.
The bomb, which was defused without incident on Monday, was the most potentially destructive he had ever seen, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information about the investigation.
The FBI declined to reveal any details yesterday about the bomb, which was spotted by three city employees about an hour before the downtown parade was to start, said Frank Harrill, special agent in charge of the Spokane office. The employees looked inside, saw wires, and immediately alerted law enforcement.
The parade was rerouted.
The FBI received no warnings in advance and does not have a suspect, Harrill said. No one has claimed responsibility for planting the bomb.
The discovery before the parade for the slain civil rights leader raised the possibility of a racial motive in a region that has been home to the white supremacist Aryan Nations group.
“The confluence of the holiday, the march, and the device is inescapable, but we are not at the point where we can draw any particular motive,’’ Harrill said.
The Spokane region and adjacent northern Idaho have had numerous incidents of antigovernment and white supremacist activity during the past three decades.
The most visible was by the Aryan Nations, whose leader, Richard Butler, gathered racists and anti-Semites at his compound for two decades. Butler was bankrupted and lost the compound in a civil lawsuit in 2000. He died in 2004.
In December, a man in Hayden, Idaho, built a snowman on his front lawn shaped like a member of the Ku Klux Klan holding a noose. The man knocked the pointy-headed snowman down after getting a visit from sheriff’s deputies.
Harrill called the planting of the bomb an act of domestic terrorism that was clearly designed to advance a political or social agenda.
“The potential for injury and death were clearly present,’’ he said of the bomb.