Ex-Officer Gets Probation for Olympic Bomb Ruse

Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles police officer who attempted to impress his superiors by planting and then “discovering” a bomb-like device on a 1984 Turkish Olympic team bus was placed on probation for five years and fined $10,000 Friday.

Jimmy Wade Pearson, 41, a nine-year police veteran who resigned after the incident, had pleaded guilty to one count of possession of an explosive.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gerald Levie also ordered Pearson to serve 1,500 hours of community service, to refrain from owning weapons and to undergo psychological counseling.


Pearson became the brief focus of international attention at the conclusion of the Summer Games in August, 1984, when he “discovered” the device--a pipe containing gunpowder that was apparently not rigged to explode--in the wheel well of the bus carrying the Turkish team’s baggage at Los Angeles International Airport.

As people ran for cover, Pearson ripped the device’s wiring apart, sprinted 50 yards and tossed the pipe onto a runway.

Initially Cited for Heroism

Initially cited for heroism by Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, Pearson was arrested the next day after failing a polygraph test.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence Mason said Pearson still exhibits a lack of candor and requested that he be sent to a state correctional institution for a 45- to 90-day diagnostic study to determine if he is fit for probation. The prosecutor also argued that even if the ticking device could not have exploded, it could have resulted in injuries due to the panic factor.

“It’s like a guy who enters a crowded theater and yells, ‘Fire,’ ” Mason said.

Levie, relying on a psychiatrist’s report prepared for the defense, said Pearson does not pose a danger to the community.

“The basic thing is he did not attempt to hurt anybody,” Levie said. “The court believes the defendant’s action was not malicious. . . . He wanted to be regarded as a hero.”

Pearson’s lawyer, Barry Levin, said the sentence was appropriate. He described his client as “an individual with a low threshold to stress” who also had “an innate desire for attention.”

The former officer, the lawyer said, perpetrated the hoax largely in the hope that by earning plaudits, he could transfer from the elite Metro Division, where he had problems with a supervisor.

“What he basically felt was that there was no escape; he had to get out of Metro . . . and he staged a ruse,” Levin said.

Similar sentiments were cited by Pearson in an emotional, 10-page letter he wrote in August to a probation officer. The letter was made public Friday.

“With the kind of drive and dedication I exhibited (as a police officer), I was a success--but only to others, not to myself,” Pearson wrote.

‘Still Have Nightmares’

”. . . I still have nightmares about my act but, like everyone else, must live with my mistakes.”

In his letter, the Texas native caustically criticized Metro, saying that parties are thrown whenever its officers have been involved in shooting deaths. Metro headquarters, he added, boasts a “kill board” containing “the engraved name of each Metro cop who has ever killed someone.”

The division’s commanding officer, Capt. John Higgins, responded Friday that he has never heard of such parties and explained that the office maintains a memorial containing both the names of officers who have been shot and officers who have shot others.

“This is one way,” he said, “to recognize that officers are in life-threatening situations.”