The hidden entrance through the laboratory floor to an underground bunker at a property on Burn Road found last year. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

The hidden entrance through the laboratory floor to an underground bunker at a property on Burn Road found last year. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Arlington-area man sentenced to over 3 years for gun stash, bunker

While investigators searched James Bowden’s property, they found guns. Then they discovered a removable floor panel.

SEATTLE — An Arlington-area man was sentenced Friday to 3½ years in federal prison after he was found with an illegal arsenal of guns and explosives in his underground bunker.

In November of last year, James Bowden confronted a man in a car in the 19300 block of Burn Road, according to court documents. They argued. The suspect reportedly said he was going to shoot the man in the car if he didn’t leave.

The driver pleaded with the homeowner to put the gun down. That only further agitated Bowden, prosecutors alleged.

Bowden, now 42, then raised his gun and shot one round through the car’s windshield, hitting the driver’s hand. Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies later found a bullet hole in the windshield and bullet fragments in the car, according to court papers.

“Leave before I put one in your head,” Bowden reportedly said.

The wounded man drove to Cascade Valley Hospital for treatment. He had metallic debris in the soft tissue of his middle, ring and pinky fingers, X-rays found.

Federal investigators then went to search Bowden’s property on Burn Road. In a detached garage, they found a room set up like a laboratory, according to court documents. They discovered chemicals, equipment and documents used to manufacture homemade explosives. Preliminary testing of some substances there indicated they were explosives.

A photo shows shelves filled with chemicals, a gas mask and “the laboratory” written in neon green paint. Also painted is the phrase “51-50 4 Life,” seemingly referring to the cofe for someone who police think is a danger to themselves or others, often because of mental health issues.

Bomb technicians spent hours detonating the materials.

A removable panel in the lab floor revealed a ladder to an underground bunker. Inside, investigators found guns, ammo, grenades and other equipment.

Prior felony convictions prohibited Bowden from having such weapons. In 1999, he was convicted of theft and burglary in Skagit County.

In May, the defendant pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of machineguns and possession of a destructive device in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Federal prosecutors dropped three other charges.

Snohomish County prosecutors had also charged Bowden with second-degree assault for the shooting. But given the guilty plea in federal court, prosecutors here moved to dismiss those charges.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Bowden faced between 46 and 57 months in federal prison. Prosecutors pushed for the low end of that range. The defense requested just a year.

Bowden was an iron worker with a family before he got injured on the job and increasingly used drugs, he wrote to U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez. His addiction tore his family apart, but Bowden hopes to rebuild those ties after his release.

“Please see that I am an honest man who has been an Iron Worker for 20 years, an active participant in community, and a man who dearly loves his children,” Bowden wrote in his letter, “but most of all, a man that can learn from his folly and from having gone astray, that can further develop himself, and that is adamant to maintain his good sense, respect of safety, and respect for the law, even if hard times come again.”

Martinez sentenced Bowden to 42 months, below the guidelines, noting drugs likely played a role in Bowden’s crimes.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439;; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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