Police say Hemet booby trap suspect to be charged in attacks against police officers

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Police: Hemet booby trap suspect to be charged

HEMET, Calif. — A man suspected of carrying out a series of booby trap attacks against police in a small Southern California town was expected to be charged in the case Wednesday, authorities said.

Nicholas Smit was arrested Friday for investigation of making a booby trap and assault on a police officer with intent to commit murder.

Smit is suspected of planting booby traps to hurt a Hemet police officer who arrested him after suspecting that he was growing marijuana, law enforcement officials said.

He naively believed the pot case would go away if he killed or injured the officer, who also is a witness, said Karl Anglin, assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“This guy we are dealing with is not very intelligent, that’s for sure,” Anglin said.

Prosecutors will file charges against Smit on Wednesday, Riverside County district attorney’s spokesman John Hall said.

Hemet police Lt. Duane Wisehart said Smit would likely have served just six to eight months if convicted in the drug case.

“Now he is looking at a life sentence,” Wisehart said. “It’s just pretty silly.”

Smit’s friend Steven Hansen was arrested for investigation of parole violation and weapons charges.

It was unknown if the men had a lawyer. Phone listings could not immediately be located for the suspects.

Anglin said the officer, whose name was not released, arrested Smit last fall. At the time, he was working for a special narcotics unit and was later moved to a gang detail, Wisehart said.

As concerns grew for his safety, the officer and his family were moved to a safe location, Anglin said.

The first attack came in early December, when someone left a crude device known as a punji trap on the front porch of officer’s home. The weapon was made from a series of wooden boards pierced by dozens of upward-pointing nails.

In another attack, a natural gas pipe was pushed into a hole drilled through the roof of the gang enforcement unit’s headquarters. The building filled with flammable vapor, but the gas was detected before anyone was hurt.

The officer was again targeted March 5 when an explosive device that did not detonate was left on his car.

The ATF got involved in the case on Feb. 23 after a handmade gun was attached to a sliding gate at the Police Department’s gang enforcement building sent a bullet whizzing past an officer’s face when he entered.

Hansen, a convicted arsonist, was being investigated for his ties to Smit. Investigators believe he may have been involved in some of the Hemet attacks.

On March 23, a structure at a police shooting range was burned, and in a June 30 attack a fire was lit at a police evidence building.

Among the items destroyed were some pieces of evidence from the Smit marijuana case, though it was not expected that would impact the case, authorities said.

In all, there have been at least eight attacks. On Tuesday, police found a hazardous device stuck to the bottom of a police car. The device was believed to have been there for up to 60 days.

Other possible suspects were still being sought. A reward of up to $200,000 remained in place.

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