Extremists charged in 97 heist
- Jim Redden
- Portland Tribune - News
Pair also set off a bomb in a nearby adult store as a diversion, police say
Two anti-government extremists have been charged with a violent bank robbery that included the bombing of an adult video store as a diversion.
Fritz Springmeier, 45, and Forrest Bateman, 29, are charged with robbing the Key Bank branch at 19830 S.E. Highway 212 on Oct. 8, 1997.
A gunman wearing a black paramilitary uniform fired an assault weapon into the ceiling before escaping in a stolen car.
A few minutes before the robbery, a bomb went off at the Fantasy Land adult video store at 16014 S.E. 82nd Drive, just six miles from the bank. At the time, the Clackamas County sheriff's office speculated that the blast was planned as a diversion.
Springmeier is a conspiracy theorist who has published numerous books alleging that millions of Americans have been turned into mind-controlled zombies by the government. One is titled 'The Illuminati Formula for Undetectable Total Mind Control Slaves.'
He once tried to find the home address of a Portland police officer who had shot and killed a deranged woman in self-defense. In a letter to a free-lance writer, Springmeier accused the officer of killing the woman because she had 'lots of hard evidence of judicial corruption in Multnomah County.'
Authorities suspect that Bateman is a member of the Army of God, a shadowy domestic terrorist organization that has taken credit for bombing abortion clinics. When he was 17, Bateman was convicted of racially intimidating a Forest Grove High School student in 1989.
Law enforcement officials first linked Springmeier and Bateman during a drug investigation last year. Acting on a tip, Clackamas County sheriff's officers raided Bateman's rural home in early February 2001. In addition to marijuana, the officers found illegal machine guns, homemade explosives, timing devices and Army of God literature.
Bateman was arrested on drug and weapons charges. He is in jail awaiting trial on those charges.
A multiagency law enforcement team raided Springmeier's home March 1, 2001. They found evidence of a former marijuana-growing operation but no illegal firearms, explosives or extremist literature. Springmeier was arrested on drug charges and subsequently released on his own recognizance.
At the time, Clackamas County sheriff's office spokeswoman Angela Blanchard said Springmeier and Bateman were part of the same marijuana ring.
'They're selling drugs to supplement their income,' she said.
The federal government now alleges that Springmeier and Bateman also plotted to rob a bank together. They were indicted Jan. 31 on three charges related to the Key Bank robbery.
Both are charged with armed robbery, possession of a semiautomatic weapon during a federal crime of violence and possession of a destructive device during a federal crime of violence.
Springmeier is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Friday. Bateman has not yet been served with the indictment.