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FBI document reveals Spokane backpack bomb was radio-controlled

An FBI document details the steel pipe bomb found in a backpack in Spokane on Martin Luther King Day.

The backpack bomb found along the route of Spokane’s Martin Luther King Day Parade was supposed to be triggered remotely using a car alarm receiver. That’s according to a newly uncovered FBI document.

It’s labeled a “joint intelligence bulletin” and its audience was counter-terrorism investigators. The document describes the contents of the Swiss Army brand backpack discovered Jan. 17 in downtown Spokane.

According to a forensic examination, the pipe bomb used lead fishing weights as makeshift shrapnel, which were then coated in green rat poison. The bomb was rigged with a car alarm receiver to set it off when someone activated the corresponding transmitter. And the bomb was viable, according to the report, though it’s not clear whether anyone attempted to set it off.

The report’s authors say the use of a radio-controlled trigger suggests the bomb maker was more skilled than the “typical” pipe bomb builder. But they say the device could have been made using instructions that are easily accessible.

The unclassified intelligence report was posted Wednesday by the website It’s dated March 9, the same day that Kevin Harpham was arrested for allegedly planting the bomb.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.
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