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Suspicious Device Found Attached to Hemet Police Cruiser

Los Angeles Times via YellowBrix

July 07, 2010

HEMET, CA – Hemet police on Tuesday found a “suspicious device” attached to a city police car, four days after two men were arrested in connection with a series of violent attacks against authorities in the small Riverside County city.

The device, which the Sheriff’s Department’s bomb squad rendered harmless, was found during a routine check of all police cars and could have been attached to the vehicle at any time over the last two months, said Lt. Duane Wisehart.

“Investigators believe they have the suspects in these attacks in custody and that this device was simply not discovered until today,” Wisehart said in a statement released by Hemet police.

On Friday, police arrested Nicholas John Smit, 40, of Hemet on suspicion of attempting to murder a police officer and building a potentially deadly booby trap. Also arrested was Steven Hansen, 36, a convicted arsonist from nearby Homeland, who was taken into custody on a parole violation for weapons possession.

The two are suspected of being involved in the attacks on Hemet police that started six months ago, including arson fires and a booby-trapped zip gun rigged to shoot an anti-gang investigator.

Police Chief Richard Dana said 78 officers, Riverside County sheriff’s deputies and federal agents raided the two suspects’ homes Friday. At least two other suspects remain at large, he said. Dana said physical evidence from the attacks led to the arrest of Smit and Hansen, who know one another, but Dana declined to discuss the nature of that evidence.

Smit already faces charges of cultivating marijuana, the result of an earlier arrest made by Hemet police, Dana said.

Since the attacks began in December, investigators have speculated that the crimes were the work of the Vagos motorcycle gang or a band of white supremacists. Police are still trying to determine whether Smit or Hansen are connected to any gangs.

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