Hemet police have arrested two men, both without apparent gang or motorcycle gang ties, in connection with a string of potentially-deadly attacks on police facilities.
Police Chief Richard Dana said officers are still seeking two other people, who have also been linked to some of the attacks against Hemet police that have wracked the nerves of law officers in western Riverside County for seven months.
The men were identified as Nicholas John Smit, 40, of Hemet, and Steven Hansen, whose age was not released but who lives in nearby Homeland. Eighty officers working in a multi-agency task arrested them Friday night, said Dana.
Officers are investigating the series of incidents, which started New Year's Eve and included several arsons, the routing of an open natural gas line into a police building, and a fizzled attempt to fire a bazooka mortar at the Hemet police headquarters.
Two other suspects are still being sought, and the $200,000 reward for information in the case still is active, said the police chief.
"If you were afraid of these two guys, you can now come forward, they are not going to be going anywhere anytime soon," said Dana at a news conference Saturday.
Smit has a prior arrest for possession of marijuana, and was charged with making a booby trap, attempted second-degree murder of a police officer, and committing a felony while on bail, said Dana. Evidence seized at Smit's residence Friday night directly links him to the series of attacks, added Dana.
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Hansen is not yet charged with any crimes other than a parole violation, said Dana.
Hemet police and the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley Gang Task Force have been targeted through a wave of attacks since Dec. 31, which included booby traps and arson fires on police and city facilities and equipment.
The latest attack was Monday when an arson fire was set at the Hemet police evidence storage facility.
The fire caused significant damage to the building and its contents, including evidence being held for various criminal cases, said Hemet police police Lt. Duane Wisehart.
Earlier this month, someone tried to launch a bazooka rocket with a non- explosive head at the Hemet police station, but the engine fizzled out, and the rocket landed in a garbage pile, igniting it, said authorities. Other attacks included a suspicious fire that damaged a Hemet police training facility in April.
Four city code enforcement trucks were torched in the Hemet City Hall parking lot, and a member of the Hemet-San Jacinto Gang Task Force found an explosive device attached to his unmarked patrol unit when he pulled into a gas station.
Last February, a member of the task force opened a gate at its headquarters and was nearly struck by a bullet discharged by a homemade "zip gun," rigged to shoot when the gate moved.
The string of attacks started Dec. 31, when someone rerouted a natural gas line into the task force's headquarters building, setting the stage for an explosion by a spark.
The Hemet City Council authorized the department in April to supply personnel with all means necessary to combat the attacks and protect themselves.
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