Inland Empire News
Mastermind of Hemet attacks arrested, charged
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- After months of potentially deadly attacks in Hemet that included booby-trapped buildings and cars set on fire, police say they have their man.
Investigators believe the attacks were masterminded by 39-year-old Nicholas Smit, who was allegedly retaliating againstHemet police after they arrested him last year on drug charges.
Smit is a patio builder and was facing five felony charges for allegedly growing marijuana last year. According to authorities, most of the attacks targeted the officer who arrested Smit in an attempt to somehow stop the officer from testifying at Smit's trial.
"We're still working on it, we're still putting things together, but I'm so happy to be coming up here saying we've got some bad guys in custody, and we're not getting any officers hurt. We're not going to the hospital, and we're not burying any officers," said Chief Richard Dana of the Hemet Police Department.
All the attacks happened shortly before Smit's scheduled court dates.
One of the first attacks on New Year's Eve, when a gang task force building was rigged to explode, was a couple of days before Smit's preliminary hearing in the marijuana case.
The hearing was postponed until Feb. 24, and the night before that day, a booby trap known as a zip gun was attached to the task force building in attempt to kill that officer again.
In March, on the same day as one of Smit's court hearings, the officer who arrested him had a suspicious device attached to his squad car.
There have been a number of other attacks, including fires set at city facilities. A fire set a couple of weeks ago that destroyed an evidence building is believed to have destroyed evidence in Smit's marijuana case.
Smit ended up pleading guilty in the marijuana case in exchange for a three-year prison sentence last month, but he's now facing much more serious charges, including attempted murder of a peace officer. Smit faces multiple life sentences.
Police also arrested 36-year-old Steven Hansen of Homeland, who was renting a room from Smit. Police believe he was an accomplice and took part in some of the attacks. He faces 30 years to life in prison.
Police found another device on Tuesday attached to a squad car, but they believe the device had been there for a couple of months.
gang activity, suspicious object, arrest, riverside county, inland empire news, rob mcmillan
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