SALEM, Ore. – Proscutors say that a father and son accused of planting a bomb that killed two police officers dreamed of get-rich-quick schemes and forming civilian militias, but fears that a new president would work to curb gun owners' rights pushed them to action, prosecutors say.
Bruce A. Turnidge, 59, and his son, Joshua A. Turnidge, 34, face aggravated murder and other charges stemming from the fatal explosion at the West Coast Bank in Woodburn, Ore., on Dec. 12, 2008. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
The blast killed State Police bomb technician Senior Trooper William Hakim and Woodburn Police Capt. Thomas Tennant. Woodburn Police Chief Russell Scott lost a leg.
Prosecutor Katie Suver said during opening statements Wednesday that Bruce Turnidge told an FBI agent about his objections to President Barack Obama — whom he described with a racial epithet — and the need for citizens to be armed.
Bruce Turnidge spoke about "his opinion that citizens needed to be armed to the same degree the government was, in other words with fully automatic weapons, in order to keep the government in check," Suver told jurors.
Prosecutors are expected to present evidence seized from the Turnidges' property that link them to the bomb.
The Turnidges are blaming each other, with the son saying the bomb was one of his father's hare-brained schemes that actually came to fruition, and the father trying to implicate his son.
The two are accused of building a bomb rigged with a remote-control switch, planting it at the bank, then calling in bomb threats for that location and at a neighboring bank. Prosecutors allege the bomb was inadvertently triggered by a signal from a passing trucker as police tried to dismantle the device.
The son's defense attorney, Steven Krasik, said his client's father "wanted to be a hero, and in doing so he concocted year after year, day after day, phantasmagorical plans. Plans of bank robberies, helicopter escapes, shootouts."
Krasik said that on the day after the bombing, Joshua Turnidge found his father working in the farm and repeating to himself: "Nobody was supposed to get hurt."
"And it dawns on Josh that his dad had something to do with the bombing he had heard of," Krasik said. "This time one of Bruce's crazy plans happened."
The father's defense team tried to blame Joshua Turnidge instead, calling him a habitual liar. Defense attorney John Storkel said surveillance video showed Joshua Turnidge buying air cards that activating cell phones linked to the bomb.
Suver said that Bruce Turnidge once tried to create his own militia. Witnesses are expected to testify that father and son frequently spoke about robbing banks, and were setting up friends and family for an influx of cash by saying they had an investor who would be backing their struggling biodiesel and cell phone tower construction businesses.