Not in a million years, did we believe he would be able to wheel that bomb right through the front door of that casino
March 6, 2006 3:38 PM   Subscribe

In the early hours of August 26, 1980, two men wheeled a large metal box into one of Lake Tahoe's largest casinos. Thus began a 48-hour saga involving a US$3,000,000 ransom and bungling on both sides resulting in the detonation [MOV] of the device, causing $13 million in property damage and all but demolishing the casino. To this day, the bomb in question remains one of the most sophisticated ever created -- in this case by a former patron hard on his luck. A drama in nine parts: 123456789. [via]
posted by Ogre Lawless (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think there was a show about this on discovery not too long ago.
posted by puke & cry at 3:46 PM on March 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I saw it. The casino explosion was spectacular, and the investigators seemed generally incompetent, including neglected to investigate the background of the guy who did it, despite the fact that his van was seen on the way to the scene (as well as additional suspicious details), he had a background that would allow him to create such a bomb, and he owed the casino a lot of money.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:49 PM on March 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you make a bomb that completely baffles professionals but can't give simple directions to where you would like your wad of cash delivered, you intended on blowing some shit up. Good read, though, thanks Ogre.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 4:49 PM on March 6, 2006

Note that the only way that the cops got information out of the criminals was by threatening one of them with a jail cell rape.

Not that I at all approve of the criminals. But the fact is that the police are perfectly well aware of the fact that people get raped in jail all the time, and not only do they not make any attempt to stop it, they damn well encourage it with bullshit like this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:14 PM on March 6, 2006

Pretty interesting story, indeed. I'm surprised it was never in that "Murder can be Fun" zine back in the day...
posted by ph00dz at 6:12 PM on March 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've always figured that the reason bomb squads get anything done at all is that the people making bombs are idiots.
Seriously, anyone with some good background in electronics, mechanics, and/or a few other engineering fields, plus the time and determination to think things through, is going to be able to make a bomb that's as good as impossible to disarm.

Of course, that doesn't change the fact that if you're using a bomb as a threat to extort someone, you're kind of stupid. There's no way you're not going to get caught afterwards.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 6:13 PM on March 6, 2006

Wow, gotta hand it to the folks at the Rand Co. for coming up with the shaped charge idea to "sever the head from the guts" on such short notice. Pitty it didn't quite work out, but sounds like it might have if there hadn't been the extra dynamite in the top half.
"Were you involved?"

"Oh, no. I wouldn’t have built the bomb that way. I would have done it a little differently, he said. And then he went into great detail about how he would design a much more effective bomb."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:22 PM on March 6, 2006

Er, pity, that is.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:22 PM on March 6, 2006

Also, and this may go without saying, but I'd never heard of this before and was glued to my monitor while reading it head-to-tail. Fascinating stuff! Thanks!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:50 PM on March 6, 2006

Yes, there was a Discovery Channel show about this. It was an episode of "The FBI Files." I looked for it on DVD but have been unsuccessful so far.

I watched this happen. Actually, it's one of my most vivid & lengthy childhood memories. The whole family was practically glued to the TV set, waiting to see what would happen.

Watching stuff blow up is cool. Even at 5 years old, I remember thinking "Woah. Explosions are cool!" ;)

If I recall correctly, the casino was open for business the very next day. And fortunately, nobody was killed in the event.
posted by drstein at 8:14 PM on March 6, 2006

With true crime stories I always look for the "no writer would have thought of that" moments, in this case the pastry cart and the bees.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:35 PM on March 6, 2006

I remember this -- although without cable news, it was just a blip of sorts. The Iranian angle was definitely brought up.

The complexity of the bomb, though, wasn't something that really was known. It's hilarious that they were the gang that couldn't shoot straight -- couldn't even tell the pilot where to find them, and this from a pilot. And the battery. And the two wrecked cars.

Fascinating that they fabricated a shaped charge on the spot and under the gun.

But the article never did tell us what the putty was for. They wrote like they knew.
posted by dhartung at 9:46 PM on March 6, 2006

Great read.
posted by daver at 10:46 PM on March 6, 2006

I wonder whether the loss was paid for by insurance ... ?
posted by nickp at 10:56 PM on March 6, 2006

Awesome read. Thanks Ogre.
posted by jba at 11:27 PM on March 6, 2006

That was a fascinating read, thanks Ogre!
posted by VirtualWolf at 12:25 AM on March 7, 2006

I'd never heard of this either and found it fascinating.

The fact that the extortion note was so specific in some areas (the information about the Richter Scale), but so vague in others (when does the 24 hour time limit start?) must have been nightmarish for the investigators and bomb squad.

Does anyone have a video of the govenor's televised plea for more information about the cash drop?

"Er, this is a message to you know who. We need a little more info on where to 'wink wink' the 'ca-ching'. A nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat....know what I mean? Call me."

Great stuff.
posted by backOfYourMind at 2:57 AM on March 7, 2006

Thanks for linking the pieces at the bottom. The site's navigation sucks, but the piece is riveting.

Great read.
posted by disillusioned at 3:58 AM on March 7, 2006

Great link.
posted by gilgamix at 7:22 AM on March 7, 2006

Cool (and scary) link(s)....bravo!
posted by mrblondemang at 11:00 AM on March 7, 2006

Excellent post, thanks!
posted by rollbiz at 5:47 PM on March 7, 2006

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