Chief: 2 arrests linked to Calif. police attacks
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Two men who investigators believe are linked to a series of booby trap attacks on police in a town in the Southern California desert have been arrested, authorities said Saturday.
Seventy-eight police officers, deputies and federal agents served a series of warrants Friday night and raided the homes of two suspects – Nicholas John Smit, 40, of Hemet and Steven Hansen, 36, of Homeland, Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana said at a news conference Saturday that included representatives from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
Smit was being held on a suspicion of making a booby trap and assault on a police officer with intent to commit murder, Dana said. He was already facing charges for marijuana cultivation, Dana said.
Dana discussed few details of the case, but said Smit did express his distaste for the police department.
“He made a couple statements that made us believe that he didn’t like us very much,” Dana said.
Hansen was being held for parole violation and weapons charges.
Police reached by phone Saturday did not know whether either man had hired an attorney.
Authorities said they are still seeking two other suspects, and have offered a $200,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the attacks.
Since late last year, Hemet law enforcement officials and city property have been targeted seven times through booby traps and arson fires that investigators believe originated with the same group of suspects.
No one has been injured.
The most recent attack was a fire that set off ammunition at a police evidence building before dawn Wednesday.
Other incidents include a natural gas pipe was rerouted into the headquarters of an anti-gang unit on Dec. 31. The building filled with flammable vapor, but an officer smelled the danger and the building emptied before anyone was hurt.
In another attack, a ballistic device strapped to a fence at a gang task force compound sent a bullet within inches of an officer’s face.
There also have been fires at a police rifle range and another that burned four city trucks in a parking lot several blocks from the Police Department.