Suspect Held in Electric Tower Tampering

From Associated Press

The man sought by the FBI for allegedly removing bolts from electricity transmission towers in Northern California was arrested Sunday when he walked into a California Highway Patrol office, having grown weary of evading authorities after a month on the run.

Michael Devlyn Poulin, 62, of Spokane, Wash., was taken into custody about 9:30 a.m. at a CHP office in south Sacramento after an officer recognized him from his wanted poster, said CHP spokesman Tom Marshall.

Poulin told Associated Press in a lengthy telephone interview Sunday morning, before his arrest, that he'd grown tired of dodging the law.

"I'm sort of getting a stiff neck from looking over my shoulder," Poulin said. He said he'd tried unsuccessfully to arrange his surrender for the past two weeks, but authorities gave him too few details about the legal circumstances that awaited him.

"The attorney general, because this covers any number of jurisdictions, refuses to tell me what I'm facing," Poulin said. "Because the threat of a terrorism charge hangs over me, I could end up in Guantanamo Bay."

A federal arrest warrant was issued last month for Poulin that charges him with damaging an energy facility. He is accused of removing and loosening bolts from the legs of a high voltage transmission tower near Anderson, Calif., on Oct. 20.

Bolts were also loosened or removed from the legs of other transmission towers across the west: near Madras, McNary, Klamath Falls and The Dalles in Oregon; near Benton City, Wash.; and in Sacramento.

Poulin was caught by CHP Officer Ty Gentry as the wanted man sought directions from the CHP office to the FBI's Sacramento bureau.

"I wish they were all this easy," said CHP spokesman Marshall. Poulin did not resist arrest, Marshall added.

Calls placed to Poulin's Eugene, Ore.-based attorney, Dan Koenig, were not immediately returned.

Norm Brown, an FBI agent in Spokane, confirmed Sunday that Poulin has a criminal history. Poulin was sentenced to life in prison in the early 1970s for attempted murder, but served only eight years, Brown said.

Poulin told Associated Press before his capture that he intended to turn himself in to the FBI Sunday afternoon after a quick breakfast and some goodbyes to his children and grandchildren.

Poulin is an active member in Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and has taken part in several antiwar rallies this year. Though he admitted no guilt to the charges he faces, Poulin said his actions at the transmission towers were necessary to highlight critical vulnerabilities to the power infrastructure -- a system that could be breached easily, he added.

"We have a situation of one person, one wrench. The person in question is 62 years old, overweight, arthritic, diabetic, half-blind and a cancer patient living on a minimum of 12 medication pills a day," Poulin said, describing himself.

Nonetheless, the longtime peace activist said he felt compelled to act.

"If you sit back on your hands and do nothing, you've done nothing," Poulin said. "I guess I'm trying to alert the public to the fact that you don't throw stones from glass houses."

Poulin said the Bush administration's heavy-handed search for terrorists abroad overlooked weak spots in domestic security.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World