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Man Convicted Of Trying To Kill Cops Using Booby Traps

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

MURRIETA (CBS) — A man who tried to kill Hemet police during a series of attacks in 2010 was convicted Monday of four counts of attempted murder of a police officer and numerous other felonies.

Nicolas John Smit, 41, could face life in prison when he’s sentenced by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Mandio on Dec. 2.

A Murrieta jury deliberated four days before convicting Smit of the attempted murder counts, as well as being in possession of a zip gun, attempting to ignite an incendiary device in the commission of a felony, conspiracy, five drug-related offenses and multiple sentence-enhancing allegations, including committing a crime while on bail.

Jurors deadlocked on a fifth count of attempted murder, prompting Mandio to declare a mistrial on that count.

Smit remains held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.

His co-defendant, Steven William Hansen, 38, of Homeland, is slated to be tried separately in January.

According to trial testimony, the defendants harbored ill will toward the Hemet Police Department and were overheard plotting at least one attack.

Hemet police Sgt. Matthew Hess and Detective Chuck Johnson were named in court documents as victims.

Former District Attorney Rod Pacheco said during a July 2010 news briefing that Johnson arrested Smit in June 2009 on drug charges.

Hansen was paroled from prison in March of that year after serving time for arson.

Smit alone rigged a pipe bomb to Johnson’s patrol unit in March 2010, but it caused no harm.

He also placed a zip gun on a gate at the Hemet-San Jacinto Gang Task Force’s headquarters on Feb. 23, 2010.

The device was triggered when Hess opened the gate, firing a bullet that narrowly missed him, according to
investigators.

The attacks began with a New Year’s Eve 2009 attempt to blow up the task force’s building by rerouting a natural gas line into the facility. A spark could have ignited the gas, but the set-up was discovered in time.

The count on which jurors hung stemmed from a failed bazooka rocket attack on the Hemet Police Station on June 4, 2010.

Investigators alleged that Smit and Hansen climbed the roof of a grocery store across the street and rigged the projectile to fire, via a timer, into the building, but it failed to launch.

It later turned out to be a training device with no warhead.

The attacks spanned a six-month period, during which public safety officials pleaded for public assistance finding those responsible, equating the
incidents to acts of domestic terror.

In a March 17, 2010, news conference, Pacheco and Hemet police Chief Richard Dana announced a sweeping crackdown on the Vagos motorcycle gang for drug and weapons violations. The briefing turned to the attacks in Hemet and whether Vagos members might be involved. Pacheco refused to confirm a link, but stated the outlaw bikers had “gotten our attention.”

“When you try to kill law enforcement officers in this county, you are going to get a very significant response,” the then-D.A. told reporters.

Neither Smit or Hansen are affiliated with the motorcycle club.

The Vagos sued for defamation. As part of a settlement reached this summer, both the county and city of Hemet issued statements saying “any emotionally charged or colorful remarks made (which were) … expressly or impliedly offensive to the Vagos are unfortunate.”

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