HEMET — Two suspects have been arrested and Hemet police are seeking two others in connection to a series of bizarre attacks on law enforcement since New Year’s Eve 2009.
The latest instance of another possible attack came last Tuesday after a routine check unveiled a hazardous explosive device attached to the bottom of an unmarked police vehicle, a device that could have been there for up to two months, according to Lt. Duane Wisehart.
Police are holding Nicholas John Smit, 39, and Steven Hansen, 36, without bail in connection to the various attempts on Hemet police. While Smit was arrested Friday night on suspicion of attempted murder of a police officer, Hansen was being held on a parole violation. Hansen, a convicted arsonist, is considered a suspect in the attempted murder of a police officer.
Police say Smit may have been targeting a police officer who arrested him on possession of marijuana, hoping to prevent him from testifying. The officer’s home, unmarked police car and office have all been booby-trapped between December and March.
Since Dec. 31, Hemet police have been targeted at least seven times through a series of booby traps and arsons on police and city property. Those attacks included a gun tripwired to fire at an officer who opened a gate to an office, an arson at the Hemet police shooting range, filling a gang task force office with natural gas, setting fire to code enforcement vehicles at city hall, plus aiming a World War II training rocket at the main Hemet police station.
Each of the attacks, say police, came within days of Smit’s assigned court dates.
At one point, investigators targeted a motorcycle gang and a white supremacist gang as possible suspects.
Hemet police and Riverside County sheriff’s investigators have been assisted by the District Attorney’s Office, FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. State Attorney General Jerry Brown appeared on the scene, offering a $200,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved.
Smit, meanwhile, has pleaded guilty to five marijuana-related felonies. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 16.