An anonymous letter writer, purportedly a Scriptures-quoting religious fundamentalist, has claimed responsibility for the car bomb that injured two Earth First! activists in Oakland last week.
In a letter to the Ukiah office of a newspaper, the Santa Rose Press-Democrat, a person claiming to be "the Lord's avenger" took responsibility for placing the bomb in activist Judi Bari's car to punish her for allegedly opposing abortion foes and deifying trees--and to discourage others from joining the effort to preserve ancient redwoods.
Although the Press-Democrat reported that the letter contained previously unreleased details of the bomb that seriously wounded Bari and hurt fellow environmentalist Darryl Cherney, police declined to comment on the document's authenticity until the FBI could examine it.
The FBI declined Thursday to say if it regarded the letter as authentic. The letter would be sent to the bureau's Washington, D.C., crime lab for evaluation, said Barry W. Mawn, assistant special agent in the FBI office in San Francisco.
"It could be serious, it could be a prank," Mawn said.
Oakland police have publicly accused Bari, 40, of Redwood Valley, and Cherney, 33, of Piercy, of being responsible for the blast themselves. Although the pair have not been formally charged in the case, FBI agents are actively trying to find evidence linking them to the bomb.
Mawn acknowledged that the letter included accurate details about the components of the Oakland bomb and another placed in a Cloverdale lumber mill on May 8. He said it would have taken "lucky guesswork" for a prankster to be that detailed.
"Someone had a very good knowledge of both incidents," Mawn said.
"I built with these Hands (sic) the bomb that I placed in the car of Judi Bari," began the letter, which came in an envelope with no return address. It was postmarked "North Bay," which is used for all mail processed from Marin County to the Oregon Border.
"The woman is possessed of the Devil," a copyrighted story in the newspaper quoted the letter as saying. Copies of the letter were not made public at the request of authorities.
"The Lord cleared my vision and revealed this unto me outside the Baby-Killing Clinic (sic) when Judi Bari smote with Satan's words the humble and Faithful servants of the Lord who had come there to make witness against Abortion," the three-page, typed, single-spaced missive continued.
According to the document, Bari came to the letter writer's attention again when she organized Redwood Summer, a series of demonstrations planned this summer to protest the continued logging of the last privately owned old-growth coastal redwoods left on Earth.
The planned protest has heightened tensions between environmentalists and loggers throughout Northern California, leading the Sierra Club and several other mainstream groups to withdraw their support.
"This possessed demon Judi Bari spread her Poison to tell the Multitude that trees were not God's gift to Man but that trees were themselves gods and it was a Sin to cut them," the letter writer said. "I felt the Power of the Lord stir within my Heart and I knew I had been Chosen to strike down this Demon."
The writer added a warning to "all who would come to the forests and worship trees."
". . . If you Heed not this Warning and go into the forests to do Satan's Bidding surely you will Suffer the Punishment of demon Judi Bari," the letter stated.
The letter writer also took responsibility for a firebomb that failed to fully detonate at the Cloverdale lumberyard. The letter said that bomb, which has been linked to the Oakland car bomb by similarities of design, was left at the lumberyard to try to "bring infamy down on Judi Bari."
When that device, described in the letter in great detail, failed to fully explode, the writer claimed to take the failure as a sign from God to hurt Bari herself. "With this sign the Lord told me to Use not Indirection," the writer stated.
The next bomb, the letter said, was placed directly in Bari's car, a Subaru station wagon, as she met last Tuesday in Willits with local sawmill owners. Ironically, the meeting was intended to set ground rules for demonstrators to avoid violence during the coming summer demonstrations.
Bari's car exploded Thursday as she and Cherney were driving to Santa Cruz to recruit students at the University of California there. Bari remains hospitalized in Oakland with a broken pelvis and internal injuries. Cherney was treated for a scratched eye and other injuries and released.
Less than 24 hours after the blast, Oakland police arrested Bari and Cherney and accused them of illegally possessing, transporting and detonating the bomb themselves. The activists' supporters criticized the allegations as false and accused police of using the bombing to discredit the radical Earth First! movement.
Mawn said that the first bomb was crafted to start a fire and the second bomb only to explode and inflict injury and damage. But both were primitive in design, he said.
"These are not very sophisticated devices," Mawn said. "They could have been made with manuals available."
On Tuesday, Oakland prosecutors had declined to file formal charges against Bari and Cherney, saying they would wait to see if the FBI could produce enough evidence from alleged bomb-making material--duct tape, wire and nails--seized from the pair's cars and Mendocino County homes.
Times staff writers Jim Herron Zamora in Oakland and Kevin Roderick in Los Angeles contributed to this story.