Woman Denies Deliberately Bringing Bomb to Government Building

Bomb device found in woman's backpack during security check at Spokane government building


A bomb that police say had the potential to kill made it as far as a security checkpoint inside the Public Safety Building near the Spokane County Courthouse on Tuesday.

It was the first time most officers could remember that a potentially dangerous explosive made it so far into the building, which is headquarters for both the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

According to police, the pipe bomb was discovered about 8:30 a.m. inside a backpack belonging to Sylvia Ceniceros, 35. Security guards noticed the explosive device when searching through Ceniceros' backpack, police said.

After leaving her backpack with security, Ceniceros made her way from the Public Safety Building and into the courthouse, where she entered the courtroom of Presiding Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

Officers later entered the courtroom and searched her, then let her stay to watch preliminary court hearings on closed circuit television, court officials said.

Ceniceros was later arrested after officers evacuated both the courthouse and the Public Safety Building and moved the bomb outdoors to a courtyard. The incident closed the two buildings for about an hour.

In a Tuesday night jail interview, Ceniceros said she thought the backpack only contained her personal belongings.

"I didn't even know it was there," the woman said. "It didn't belong to me. I don't know who put it in."

Ceniceros would not say whose court appearance she came to see Tuesday.

She said she didn't know or live with anyone who made pipe bombs and wouldn't think of bringing one in herself.

"I'm not stupid," she said.

Ceniceros has several traffic infractions on her record and is in a diversion program connected with a forgery.

According to court documents, as a first-time offender she was allowed to enter the program in September. Under terms of her agreement with the court, if she fails to complete the program, the court is allowed to decide her guilt or innocence on the forgery charge on the basis of the prosecutor's evidence.

She now faces a possible felony. On Tuesday, police arrested her on suspicion of possessing an explosive device without a license, said Spokane police spokesman Cpl. Tom Lee.

Tuesday's incident demonstrated exactly what the courthouse's security system is designed to do, Lee said. "It could have caused substantial damage and could have hurt or killed people near it," he said. "The guards did the right thing."