In this special event bus adventure, bomb detective Mike Digby takes us on a scrupulously researched journey through early Los Angeles, bringing one of the nation’s most notorious criminal conspiracies to life. The case is a seminal teaching example which Mike has developed as curriculum for arson investigators, and now adapts into this bus tour. While following the forensic leads of the unfolding case, Mike will compare and contrast 21st century crime analysis methods which were not available to investigators at the time.
ABOUT THE CRIME: Late in the afternoon of September 30, 1910, a man left his downtown Los Angeles hotel and embarked on, what for him, was just another clandestine bombing mission. A veteran of more bombings than he cared to recall, he had carefully scouted and selected his targets, assembled the dynamite time bombs and prepared his alibis. To him, this was supposed to be just another series of bombings. It would turn out to be anything but.
Carrying a suitcase which held three time bombs, or ‘infernal devices’ as they were known, he walked a short distance to the alley behind the Los Angeles Times. It was there in the shadows of that alley that he concealed one of the timed dynamite bombs. Within an hour, he had placed identical timed dynamite bombs outside the homes of Los Angeles Times publisher General Harrison Gray Otis and Felix Zeehandelaar, a close ally of General Otis’.
The bombings were part of a years-long and nationwide campaign of industrial sabotage and terror, spearheaded by radical and conspiratorial elements within the national labor movement. It was their intention to bring union-resistant Los Angeles to its knees.
Confident that his three bombs would explode long after he had left the city, the man casually walked back to Los Angeles’ Santa Fe Station and boarded an evening train to San Francisco. Shortly after 1 AM on October 1, 1910, as the train continued traveling through the night, a powerful explosion ripped through the Los Angeles Times building, destroying much of the building and creating an inferno which resulted in twenty one deaths and scores of injuries.
Thanks to some determined investigative work, effective exploitation of forensic evidence and a whole lot of luck, a year-long manhunt across the United States resulted in the arrest, trial and conviction of dozens of bombing co-conspirators – almost all of whom were senior executives within the labor movements.
This tour will examine the National Dynamite Plot from its origins to its demise. We will follow the trail of the bombers, from where the dynamite bombs were assembled to the locations where bombs were placed and exploded. Our discussion will include the reasons why each target was selected, several of the participants, the courtroom shenanigans and other bombing sites which were intended to throw investigators off the trail. It was a conspiracy diabolical in scope and deadly in design. Like all plots, it unraveled… in the most unlikely of ways.
A few of our tour stops:
- MacArthur Park (statue of General Otis of the Los Angeles Times)
- Hollywood Memorial Park aka Hollywood Forever (memorial for victims of bombing)
- The Los Angeles Times (original location and replacement buildings)
Included in the ticket price is a copy of Mike Digby’s new book, A Bombing in the Wilshire-Pico District: The True Story of a 20th Century She-Devil and Her Plot to Murder, Terrorize and Steal a Real Estate Empire in 1919 Los Angeles.
Please contact us if you wish to purchase additional copies — cost is $25/each.
ABOUT OUR GUEST HOST: After serving seven years in the United States Army, Mike Digby joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department where he served proudly for more than 34 years. For the last seventeen years, he was assigned as a Detective Bomb Technician in the Arson/Bomb Squad where his duties included rendering safe and disassembling improvised explosive devices, examining and disposing of military ordnance and conducting post-blast investigations. A self-proclaimed “bomb nerd” and decorated detective, Mike has spent years studying the motives of bombers, their methods of attack and the bombs that they built. He has served as technical advisor on BBC and Discovery Channel programs. In December 2016, Mike published “The Bombs, Bombers and Bombings of Los Angeles,” a book which documents several dozen bombing events that took place in the Los Angeles area over the past hundred years.