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Two Men Charged in Reno Bomb Case : Crime: They are accused of planting explosive outside IRS office. The device was lit but did not detonate.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Federal authorities have arrested and charged two Nevada men with planting a powerful bomb outside the Internal Revenue Service building in Reno earlier this month.

The 100-pound device--made of fertilizer and fuel oil, similar to the bomb used in the Oklahoma City bombing in April--was lit but did not go off, federal agents said Thursday as the suspects were arraigned in Reno.

Ellis Edward Hurst, 52, and Joseph Martin Bailie, 40, both of rural Douglas County, were charged with attempted destruction of a government building and the use of an explosive device in a crime of violence.

Federal authorities said that Hurst, after initially denying any role in the Dec. 17 attempted bombing, called their Reno offices on Wednesday to say that he was responsible.

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“I thought about it and I did it,” Hurst was quoted as saying in a federal affidavit.

Authorities said Hurst also told them that he and Bailie drove the device to the IRS building in Reno, that Bailie ignited the fuse and that they heard a pop as they drove off, according to the affidavit.

Hurst said in the affidavit that he and Bailie had difficulties with the IRS in the past, and a former employer of Bailie told agents that his wages had been attached by the IRS. The affidavit did not indicate that Bailie made any admissions.

Both men live in Gardnerville, a small but growing town in Nevada cattle country across the California border east of Lake Tahoe. Douglas County Undersheriff Ron Pierini said he believed that Hurst worked at the local landfill. He said neither man had a local arrest record. Records revealed that one had been a recent victim of a burglary.

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“Both of them have lived here awhile, but we’ve got almost no read on them,” Pierini said.

He said the Gardnerville area, like other parts of rural Nevada, was home to pockets of militia and anti-government groups. In the past year, two pipe bombs aimed at federal authorities have exploded in nearby Carson City, and federal agencies that enforce regulations have issued warnings to their workers.

“I don’t think we’re a hotbed but there is an association of militia groups in the area,” Pierini said.

The bomb was discovered in the parking lot of the IRS building early Dec. 18 by an IRS employee arriving for work. It was contained in a 20-gallon white plastic drum. The drum was wired to a handcart and placed behind a government car. Its three-foot-long fuse was lit but apparently fizzled out before detonation.

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Affidavits filed Thursday in federal court in Nevada confirmed that the bomb was composed of a combination of fertilizer and fuel oil--the same basic mixture used to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, killing 169 people.

A blasting cap and safety fuse had been used as a trigger device, the documents stated. The safety fuse had detonated the blasting cap but the main charge did not ignite.

Had the bomb ignited, authorities said, the blast would have severely damaged the federal building and cars in the parking lot and very likely killed anyone close to the scene.

Bomb experts dismantled the device and took samples of its contents for testing. The remainder of the bomb was transported to the desert east of Reno and destroyed.

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An investigation by FBI, IRS and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents, and local police resulted in the arrest of Hurst late Wednesday and Bailie’s arrest early Thursday, both in the Gardnerville area. They appeared before a U.S. magistrate Thursday to be formally held on two charges that carry a minimum penalty of 30 years in prison.

Authorities said there is no evidence linking the bomb to three anti-government bombings in the past two years in western Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management building in Reno was bombed on Halloween 1993. The roof of the unoccupied building was badly damaged.

In late March, a pipe bomb slightly damaged the U.S. Forest Service office in Carson City. In August, a similar pipe bomb exploded inside a parked vehicle belonging to a Forest Service district ranger. The vehicle was parked in front of his home in Carson City. He was not there at the time and his family narrowly escaped injury.


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