MOSES LAKE — The potential fertilizer bomb discovered in the backseat of a vehicle belonging to a Moses Lake resident was not functional, according to a spokesperson for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
Ryan Palmer, 39, is suspected of stealing fertilizer, diesel, magnesium and other materials over an extended period of time from fertilizer retailer Nutrien AG Solutions to create an explosive device. Palmer advised deputies that he had worked for Nutrien AG Solutions as a chemical driver until 2015, according to the interview. Palmer was arrested Dec. 27 after a routine traffic stop led deputies to discover a potential fertilizer bomb in Palmer’s vehicle.
But an investigation by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that the device was not fully constructed and Palmer could not have detonated it, said Kyle Foreman, public information officer for the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, the fertilizer stolen by Palmer was not the correct type to manufacture an explosive device.
Palmer originally indicated to deputies that he did not plan to detonate the device, but rather intended to “prove a point” about the company’s lax security. Family members of Palmer’s have indicated his mental health and judgment may have been affected by drug addiction.
“Ryan stated he has frequently gone to Nutrien and just simply walked all over the plant with no one confronting him,” a report on the interview said. “Ryan did this over 20 times to prove how easy it would be for someone that knew how to build a fertilizer bomb to blow up the facility.”
Palmer told deputies that he planned to drive the materials through the Moses Lake facility, then drive to a facility in Tri-Cities and inform management there of what he had accomplished.
Security camera footage from the facility corroborates Palmer’s claim of entering the facility to steal materials, said Foreman.
Officials with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, which regulates and licenses companies who manufacture, use, store, buy, or sell chemicals such as those handled at the Nutrien facility, said that the agency is working with law enforcement to investigate whether the company’s license will be affected by the incident. Officials indicate this is standard procedure for the agency.
The agency has not currently opened a separate investigation into whether security at the facility endangered the safety of workers, officials said.
Additional precursor materials for the manufacture of a fertilizer bomb were found Jan. 2 by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol bomb squad in Palmer’s residence, according to a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. No fully-formed explosive was found on the premises.
Palmer is facing charges of second-degree burglary and attempted threats to bomb, and is being held in the Grant County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.