TULALIP — The investigation began with reports in late April of a Tulalip man shooting someone with a BB gun.
After the April 29 attack, Samuel Archie Matta was arrested. A few days later, Tulalip police searched his home to secure any weapons he may have had.
That search turned up several explosive devices Matta told investigators were meant to stave off “riots,” according to charges unsealed last month in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Some of the modified fireworks had been stuffed in backpacks with lighters and launch tubes. They also collected multiple BB guns, knives, bows and arrows, rifle ammunition, throwing stars, several swords and other weapons, the charges say.
A couple weeks later, police were called back to Matta’s home to investigate a report of “suspicious circumstances.” Upon arrival, they were met by a relative of Matta’s who had found chemicals he felt were suspicious and “shrapnel bombs,” the relative reported. Officers secured the home and asked for help from the Washington State Patrol’s bomb squad, according to court documents.
The bomb technicians reported the “shrapnel bombs” were safe. They appeared to be plastic bottles filled with explosive powder and wrapped with metal nuts, bolts, washers and screws, according to investigators.
Police also found multiple containers of chemicals they suspected could be used to make explosives and enough fireworks to fill the back of a pickup truck Tulalip police used to collect them, according to court papers. Some of the fireworks had been modified with metal spikes around the outside. Technicians found those devices were safe to transport.
In an interview with police at the Snohomish County Jail, Matta reported he was a science major in college and liked to build “things” at home, according to the charges. About five years earlier, Matta told detectives, he’d built some devices by dumping fireworks into a bottle. He said he’d done a good job, but didn’t want them any longer. So he stored them away for safe keeping. He claimed these devices were the only ones he’d made.
Matta, 35, reportedly described the devices as a “crude bomb.” He wasn’t sure if they’d work and sometimes they didn’t do much but just make a bunch of “color.”
The suspect also told police it was pretty scary how easy it was to make an explosion. He said he wasn’t currently making any bombs, according to court papers.
Matta reported he built some of the explosives as a last resort to survive a “group” attack. He made others when the “riots” were happening, though court papers don’t explain what “riots” Matta was referring to. He was afraid they’d make it up his street, so he prepared himself with the bombs. He’d first bought metal spikes online to attach them to his clothes to look “cool,” but he used them on his explosives, instead, according to the charges.
The Tulalip man also reportedly said he’d made fuses in the past that were stronger than those that come with consumer fireworks.
He told police he hadn’t registered any of the devices with the government, the charges allege. He didn’t know he could do that.
The devices were transferred to the FBI for testing. An investigator found there were nine improvised explosive devices that violated federal law, FBI special agent Abel Peterson wrote in the complaint.
On Sept. 29, Matta was indicted on one count of possession of destructive devices. At an arraignment Thursday, he pleaded not guilty.
Last month, he was sentenced to 270 days in jail for the April incident that kicked off the investigation into his explosives. On Friday, Matta remained in custody.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.
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