Court Documents Reveal Evolution Of MLK Day Bomber's Racist Beliefs

fromNWNews

No Alternative Text

Recently unsealed court documents show photos on Kevin Harpham's camera of himself and Spokane parade participants last Martin Luther King Day. Photo courtesy of U.S. District Court of Eastern Washington hide caption

itoggle caption
No Alternative Text

An FBI evidence photo shows the backpack that held Harpham's homemade bomb. Photo courtesy of the FBI hide caption

itoggle caption

SPOKANE, Wash. - It took white supremacist Kevin Harpham a few months to collect bomb materials. But newly unsealed documents show he was mired in the Neo-Nazi movement for more than a decade.

Harpham is the man who pleaded guilty to planting a bomb at Spokane's Martin Luther King Day parade last January. A federal judge set a sentencing hearing for Dec. 20.

In the online world of white supremacists, Kevin Harpham was known by a different name: "Joe Snuffy." And in one posting to the Vanguard News Network under that pseudenym, he pinpointed the beginning of his racist beliefs.

It was 1996, and he had just joined the Army.

"I wasn't radical at that point but can remember sitting on my bunk with a buddy watching news of a Nazi rally in D.C." he wrote.

Just a year before Harpham enlisted, a former soldier named Timothy McVeigh had bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Newscaster: "Both the second and third explosives, if you can imagine this, were larger than the first."

Harpham said back then his Army lieutenant told him McVeigh was inspired by a book called "The Turner Diaries," by William Pierce. Harpham said around 2002 he started listening to Pierce's broadcasts.

Harpham wrote, "The next year was the most educational time of my life."

Among the evidence submitted by federal prosecutors in the case are boxes of Neo-Nazi newsletters, books on domestic terrorism, and a copy of "The Turner Diaries" the FBI says belong to Harpham.

Online, as Joe Snuffy, he fantasized about a race war. In one 2006 post, Harpham described seeing a group of African Americans while traveling through a small town in Washington's Cascade Mountains. Harpham mused about using the remote area for what he called a "training exercise."

Harpham made more than 1,000 posts and reached out to other right-wing extremists, but he stayed above the law.

In letters submitted by his defense, friends and relatives describe him as quiet and caring.

Then, this past Martin Luther King Day, it seems Harpham visited the corner of Main and Washington streets in Spokane. He left a backpack there. It contained a bomb with 100 grams of black powder and 128 lead fishing weights covered in rat poison.

The bomb was supposed to be triggered by a re-vamped car alarm. But the parade never went by it.

As Spokane police quietly learned of the bomb downtown, the Rev. Happy Watkins was delivering King's "I Have a Dream Speech" before a crowd of hundreds.

Harpham may have been in the crowd. When agents arrested him in March, they discovered photos he had taken of himself, and of African Americans and other minorities at the event.

In April, Harpham wrote a letter from jail to Glenn Miller, a former KKK leader who offered Harpham his help. Harpham wrote: "In time I might be looking for someone to house sit for a while." Harpham went on, "Don't mention it yet though, until I see how this goes."

Harpham now faces 27-32 years in prison.

On the Web:

Kevin Harpham profile:

http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2011/03/10/the-spokane-bomb-attempt-who-is-kevin-william-harpham/

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.