RIVERSIDE — One of the two suspects arrested in July for multiple attacks against Hemet police is claiming his innocence.
Nicholas John Smit has called Hemet police “corrupt” and denied he was one of the people behind a series of booby traps aimed at settling a score with Det. Charles Johnson, who arrested him last summer for cultivating marijuana. The bizarre attacks began in December 2009.
“They’re pointing their finger at everyone else,” said Smit, who was arrested with alleged co-conspirator Steve Hansen. “At first, they were pointing at the Vagos (Motorcycle Gang). Now they’re just pointing the finger at me.”
Smit, 39, is charged with nine felonies, including conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder on a police officer, connected to the three attacks he’s accused of carrying out. If convicted, he could face multiple life sentences in prison.
One of the attacks involved a zip gun that was triggered to fire at a police building in February. A shot barely missed Hemet police Sgt. Matt Hess when he opened the gate to the building.
Smit also is believed to have attached the same type of pipe gun to Johnson’s unmarked patrol car. The device fell off at a gas station parking lot in early March.
Police say there’s evidence that also connects Smit to a World War II-era bazooka training rocket that was found atop a local market in June. Investigators say it was aimed at the Hemet police station.
Reports say Hansen, 36, who is from nearby Homeland, is a convicted arsonist. He once rented a room from Smit after he got out of prison in March on drug and weapons convictions.
Hansen has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder of a police officer. A series of arson attacks on police began after he was released, but he has not been charged in any of the fires, one of which burned a police shooting range.
Police believe the two men are behind possibly as many as 10 attacks on police, but they have not been charged with any other incidents. There is still a $200,000 reward offered for information that would lead to a conviction.
“If I knew who did this, I’d be home collecting the money,” Smit said.
Hemet police started dodging the bizarre attacks beginning in late December 2009.
Smit noted that investigators have led several raids looking to identify suspects. Along with the Vagos Motorcycle Club, he said police also targeted white supremacist groups. No one was charged, however. Smit said he was targeted unfairly.
Authorities counter that Smit was linked to attacks through physical evidence and DNA. Police Chief Richard Dana has told area newspapers that Smit has plenty of motives to lie. “He can claim what he wants to claim. He’ll have his day in court and perhaps he’ll be able to explain how the evidence got into his possession.”
Police say Smit planned the attacks to coincide with his court dates on marijuana growing charges in an attempt to kill an officer or keep him from testifying.
Smit, held at Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, claims police have set him up. “They overwrite the laws so there’s no way to win. Cops are Gods. They choose who they want to go down.”
Smit is convinced he’ll be cleared and said he was not worried about the charges. He denied stalking Johnson from his home or conducting surveillance on police. Smit’s attorney is Bob Semnar from the Riverside County Public Defender’s Office.
Smit and his girlfriend of 15 years, Alicia Hernandez, were present when police raided their home on July 2. The couple has three children.