Monday, January 17, 2011, was a cold brisk morning, but there was reason to be in downtown Spokane. The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March was about to begin and thousands of people prepared to march. As participants were lining up, around 9:26 AM, a city worker noticed a suspicious black backpack sitting on a bench at the corner of Main Avenue and Washington Street. Spokane Police officers recognized the potential danger and the Unity March was rerouted away from the area.
Inside the backpack was a homemade bomb, designed to kill and injure participants in the Unity March. Parts of the bomb were even laced with rat poison to maximize the amount of damage inflicted on the marchers. The Spokesman-Review reported that Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said of the bomb: “It’s not like some of the other types of devices I have seen in Spokane or in my career. This is one of sophistication.”
In addition to the bomb, the backpack also contained a couple of custom made t-shirts that would help investigators with their case. The investigation narrowed on a man named Kevin William Harpham of Colville. The 37-year-old ex-soldier was a member of the National Alliance, a white supremacist organization. Investigators were able to identify some of the components of the bomb. When police surveyed stores throughout the Pacific Northwest about purchases for the components they were able to link Harpham to the bomb. He was under federal surveillance for close to a month before a DNA sample that had been taken during his time in the Army was linked to the DNA found on the strap of the backpack that held the bomb. Harpham was sentenced to 32 years in prison in December of 2011.