TACOMA, Wash. - A recently released prison inmate was arrested Monday in a wild plot to blow up a large store and gas station as part of his bank robbery scheme.
Larry Gillette, 53, is accused of plotting to blow up a Walmart and two gas stations using car bombs as a diversion while he robbed three banks a few miles away. But the plan was exposed when another prisoner told federal agents who set up an undercover sting to ban Gillette and stop the bombings.
“Pretty scary, I could have died yesterday," said Carlee Bradford, an employee at one of the gas stations Gillette allegedly planned to target.
Gillette is charged with solicitation to commit a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“Quite a diabolical plan this individual concocted," said Shelton police Leutenant Les Watson. “Stunning would be a good description for it.”
According to U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan, Gillette, 53, began plotting the bombings and bank robberies while he was still in prison for identity theft.
After he was released April 14, Gillette described his plot in detail to an undercover officer working for the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force.
Court documents said law enforcement learned that Gillette told others in prison of his plan to rob banks in Shelton using bombs at various businesses as a diversion so that he could commit violent takeover-style robberies.
After Gillette was released from prison, an undercover officer posed as someone who could help Gillette get weapons and explosives.
On two different occasions in April, Gillette was recorded on audio and video describing his plot to the undercover officer as they drove around Shelton, the criminal complaint said.
The plot involved powerful bombs at Walmart, and Arco and Chevron gas stations. Gillette believed while first responders were busy with the bombings, he would be able rob three banks, court documents said.
Gillette said he wanted the maximum loss of life to occur in the bombings and bank robberies, and at one point in the investigation, obtained four Glock guns, according to authorities. Gillette was unaware the guns had been modified so they would not fire.
Gillette was arrested Monday afternoon when he again met with the undercover officer, and attempted to ignite a car bomb. The “bomb” was inoperable.
The maximum penalty for solicitation to commit a violent crime is 20 years in prison. Being a felon in possession of a firearm is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The Shelton police and Mason County Sheriff’s Department were made aware of the investigation by agents before Gillette’s arrest. Sheriff Casey Salisbury said if the bombings had gone as planned they would have overwhelmed the small local emergency responders and cost many people their lives.
“Those are our friends and colleagues in the community and for us it’s very personal. It’s such a small area that we know each one of those people," Casey said.