In California, police have made two arrests in connection with a string of baffling attacks on law enforcement officers and facilities.
The attacks, which appeared to target member of the Hemet Police Department, began in December 2009, when a natural-gas line was rigged to fill the office of the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force. Since then, various booby traps have been discovered, including a gun set to fire at officers and a World War II training bazooka rocket aimed to fire at the Hemet Police Station. Several fires have also been set, at the police shooting range and evidence room as well as near code enforcement vehicles.
Physical evidence at the scene of one attack led investigators to Nicholas John Smit, 39. Smit was arrested on suspicion of making a booby trap, assault with intent to murder a police officer, and possession of a firearm while on bail.
Smit pleaded guilty last month to five felony counts of cultivating marijuana, and was scheduled to be sentenced to three years in prison on July 16. He had prior convictions relating to arson, criminal threats and assault, and has served prison sentences before.
Also arrested on a parole violation for possession of a firearm was Steven Hansen, 36. Although he and Smit knew each other, and Hansen is being questioned by police, he is not being held in connection with this case.
Authorities also said that at least two additional suspects may be at large. They are offering a reward of $200,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone else connected with the crimes.
The evidence against Smit is only relevant to one of the attacks, but police believe that all seven incidents are connected.
These arrests, which were made on Friday night when a team of 78 law enforcement officers served search warrants on Smit and Hansen, were the culmination of a six-month investigation that was conducted jointly by Hemet police, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, district attorney’s office, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Neither of the men arrested over the weekend have any known connections with gangs or other organizations. Nor had they had any recent contact with police.
There has been no motive reported for the attacks, and no threats were made to the Hemet police prior to any of the attacks. Although there was some damage done to police property, including several code enforcement pickup trucks, no one was hurt in any of the incidents.