Neo-Nazi Plot Aimed At Gay Bar, FBI Says -- White Supremacists Held In Alleged Bombing Plan
Federal authorities say a trio of neo-Nazis, plotting to ``get their movement clicking,'' intended to blow up the largest gay bar in Seattle on Saturday night, its busiest night of the week.
The three white supremacists also had targeted a Tacoma bar frequented by blacks, several Korean establishments on South Tacoma Way in Pierce County and a synagogue in Seattle.
``It was supposed to be a pattern of violence,'' said a government official who asked not to be identified.
Yesterday, the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle accused two Idaho men - Robert John Winslow, 29, of Laclede, and Stephen E. Nelson, 35, of Hayden Lake - of conspiring to bomb Neighbours Disco at Broadway and Pike Street on Capitol Hill, a popular, gay-oriented restaurant and nightspot.
At the same time, the U.S. attorney's office in Boise accused a third Idaho man - James P. Baker, 57, of Coeur d'Alene - of participating in the plot.
Authorities said the three men were associated with the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, better known as the Aryan Nations, based in Hayden Lake. The church has preached a religion of white supremacy and vowed to establish a whites-only enclave in the Pacific Northwest.
An employee at Neighbours said the establishment was told about the plot after the arrests of the three men Saturday. The restaurant has remained open.
``Of course we were shocked by the news. . . ,'' unidentified owners of the establishment said yesterday in an unsigned statement to the news media.
``We were all pretty shocked about it,'' said Neighbours employee Michael Ross. ``It's enough to make me think about joining the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment,'' a civil-rights group.
The Aryan Nations' 72-year-old leader, Richard Butler, was not available for comment today, said Wayne Jones, Aryan Nations chief of security.
Jones, however, read what he called an official statement that said, ``The ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government) action of lying fraud is in response to the complaint filed by Aryan Nation members at the (Kootenai County) prosecutor's office on April 14.''
Jones would not describe the complaint, but Bill Douglas, Kootenai County prosecutor, said the Aryan Nation members complained that authorities harassed one of their members by stopping him for an alleged traffic violation during a youth conference.
Douglas said the complaint was investigated, found to be groundless and dismissed. ``It was a traffic stop by a sheriff's deputy, and they said we were singling them out and harassing them. It's more of their silliness,'' he said.
A sheriff's spokesman said a vehicle was stopped and the driver cited for not displaying license plates, and that Butler, Nelson and another church member confronted the officer involved.
The church hosted the youth conference to celebrate the anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth. As many as 130 people attended the gathering at which Nelson and other neo-Nazis spoke, according to Deni Yamauchi, Northwest coordinator of the Center for Democratic Renewal, a civil-rights group based in Atlanta.
The alleged bombing plot, she said, ``shows that a section of the white-supremacist movement remains committed to terrorism as a strategy.''
Six years ago, members of The Order, an underground splinter group of Butler's church, engaged in a spree of counterfeiting, bank robberies and murder.
Winslow and Nelson were arrested Saturday evening as they emerged from a van parked at a motel on Pacific Highway South near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The FBI said a search of the van turned up a 6-inch pipe with end caps, smokeless gunpowder, two yards of cannon fuse, a propane cylinder, a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, a .38-caliber revolver, an electronic ``stun gun,'' knives and hate literature.
In a complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, FBI agent Thomas Trier said the FBI learned in February that Winslow and Nelson planned to blow up ``various establishments'' in the Puget Sound area. He said they first planned to bomb Neighbours, which employees said frequently holds more than 300 people on weekend nights.
Using a telephone wiretap, Trier said, the FBI overheard the two men discuss their plans.
On April 14, Trier said, FBI agents followed Winslow into the mountains above Hayden Lake and watched him detonate a pipe bomb. Three days later, he said, they intercepted a conversation in which Winslow and Nelson described how they would blow up Neighbours.
``Winslow stated that he and Nelson were going to place explosive charges inside the bar,'' Trier said. ``They would then telephone the bar, warn them that a bomb would go off in three minutes, and then detonate the charges as the patrons attempted to flee.
Later, Trier said, FBI agents recorded other conversations in which the two discussed plans to blow up other establishments - including the Raintree restaurant and lounge in Tacoma, frequented by African-Americans. A woman who answered the phone there last night said she had no comment.
Federal authorities apparently used an informant to collect some of their evidence. In the complaint, Trier said the FBI recorded a May 6 meeting at which Winslow discussed the planned bombings.
``Winslow stated that they wanted to make a major impact to `get the movement clicking,' '' he said. ``Winslow agreed that their intended targets were in Seattle because they were sure to get maximum impact due to the upcoming Goodwill Games.''
On Saturday, Trier said, FBI agents followed Winslow and Nelson as they drove from the Aryan Nations compound at Hayden Lake. He said they stopped at a hardware store in Federal Way, where Winslow purchased the pipe, and later stopped at a gun shop, where Nelson bought a pound of gunpowder.
``Because these components were identical to the bomb that was exploded in Idaho, federal agents moved in and placed Winslow and Nelson under arrest,'' Trier said.
Winslow and Nelson, as well as their attorneys, declined to comment on the case as they left the courtroom yesterday.
R. George Bakan, editor of the Seattle Gay News, said he wasn't surprised that neo-Nazis allegedly had targeted the gay community. ``We're their opponents,'' he said.
In December 1988, gay activists helped organize a demonstration against neo-Nazi skinheads who had gathered on Whidbey Island to commemorate the death of Robert Mathews, leader of The Order, killed there in a fiery battle with FBI agents. Members of other minority groups were ``less vocal,'' Bakan said.
Nelson and Winslow are being held on two counts of conspiring to destroy Neighbours Disco and one count of possessing a destructive device. They are to remain in custody until at least Thursday, when they are to appear before U.S. Magistrate Philip Sweigert for a detention hearing. A pretrial examination is scheduled May 24.
In Idaho, Baker has been accused of helping to manufacture the bomb that was detonated on April 14, and of participating in plans to blow up Neighbours.
A government official said he expects the case against Winslow and Nelson to be moved to Idaho, where the government is pressing its charges against Baker.
-- Times staff reporter Dee Norton contributed to this story.
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