Police: Unhappy homeowner threatened to blow up Index bridge

INDEX — Frustrations have been brewing since a mudslide closed down access to a rural neighborhood near Index in 2013.

One man got so upset at the homeowners association last week that he called the Snohomish County Public Utility District and threatened to blow up a newly built bridge to the neighborhood, court records show.

The 37-year-old was being held Monday at the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of making a bomb threat, a felony under state law. His bail was set at $20,000.

The Mount Index Riversites community is reached by a private road that is not maintained by county or state government. Mount Index River Road, the sole road into the neighborhood, has been blocked by mud and debris since last winter, affecting about 100 homes.

Those who live at Mount Index Riversites have been walking and using all-terrain vehicles to get to and from their homes.

Earlier this year, the homeowners association and the PUD agreed to share the costs of building the bridge to the neighborhood off 217th Place SE, over the South Fork Skykomish River.

The PUD doesn’t own the bridge but will use it for access related to a potential nearby hydropower project at Sunset Falls, a spokesman said.

The bridge is scheduled for a final inspection Thursday morning and expected to open later that day.

The suspect in the threats case called the PUD’s customer service line just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the arrest report.

During a 14-minute conversation, he reportedly told the PUD employee he felt like he was being extorted and held hostage, records show. He said he had been stuck at Riversites for 231 days.

The man allegedly told the employee that he had purchased material online to make explosives and planned to blow up the bridge.

A Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy went to the man’s home on Friday morning to follow up. He worked with firefighters to get past the slide area.

“When (the man) came outside, he put his arms behind his back and asked if he was under arrest,” the deputy wrote in his report.

The man also allegedly told the deputy, “Oh, you must be here about the bridge.”

The man told the deputy he had not purchased any explosives and did not plan to bomb the bridge, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said Monday. The man said he was unhappy with news that he might have to pay additional money to the homeowners association to be able to use the new bridge.

A county prosecutor on Monday asked the judge to maintain the man’s bail amount because of the threat “to society and to the community.”

The mood in the neighborhood has grown tense as the months have passed.

Homeowner Jeff Smith and his neighbors have been hiking in with groceries, gas and supplies, he said.

The homeowners association spent about $50,000 trying to clear the road after the initial mudslide. But that effort was abandoned as debris kept flowing over the road. The damage to power lines has caused numerous outages.

Folks are looking forward to the new bridge, Smith said.

“It’s gone from despair to hope,” he said. “We have this bridge built and it’s ready to open. It’s kind of like waiting for the dawn.”

After the fatal Oso mudslide on March 22, the Index mudslide also was named in federal, state and county disaster declarations.

That allowed the homeowners association to move more quickly through permits. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday.

The suspect in the bomb threat has two misdemeanors in Nebraska and no criminal history in Washington, lawyers said in court Monday.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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