Bombs found in Montana home linked to bank robberies

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Posted at 3:22 PM, Jun 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-26 15:22:58-04

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Federal agents found homemade bombs in a Montana home that may be connected to a rash of bank robberies in multiple states and to a man who is suspected of shooting at a Kansas state trooper, authorities said Monday.

FBI agents, along with officers from Chino, California; Rexburg, Idaho; and Montana's Musselshell County searched a home in the town of Roundup, about 50 miles north of Billings, according to officials with the Musselshell County Sheriff's Office. Inside, they found "numerous" improvised explosive devices that were removed by a bomb squad, the officials said in a statement.

FBI Los Angeles spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the search was connected to a bank robbery investigation.

"Multiple departments are investigating whether evidence found during the search in Montana may be linked to a series of bank robberies currently under investigation in California and other states," she said.

In 2012 and 2014, a man the FBI called "the AK-47 bandit" robbed banks in Chino, Rexburg and four others in California, Washington state and Nebraska. He wore a balaclava mask and body armor and carried an AK-47 rifle during the robberies, according to FBI officials.

The robber shot and wounded an officer in Chino while trying to escape one robbery, according to FBI officials.

Eimiller did not immediately confirm or deny that was the focus of the Montana search.

The Montana sheriff's office's statement said the home is connected to Richard Gathercole, 39, who was arrested Tuesday at a gas station in Lexington, Nebraska. Gathercole's arrest came the day after a man fired on a Kansas trooper on Interstate 70.

The trooper wasn't injured. Gathercole is being held on charges of theft and possession of stolen firearms.

The Montana sheriff's office did not say how Gathercole is connected to the home where the bombs were found.

The statement said Gathercole is a Musselshell County resident. He also was named as a resident of San Jacinto, California, after his arrest in Nebraska. The discrepancy could not be immediately resolved.

Eimiller said federal charges have not been filed against Gathercole.