The trial of a man accused of a racially motivated bombing at Dixie College in 1993 got under way this week with a vivid description of the terror it caused.
Robert Allen Little Jr., 18, is charged in U.S. District Court with planting a pipe bomb outside the college's Shiloh Dormitory on Oct. 10, 1993, targeting its mostly black residents.No one was injured in the attack, though the bomb blew out the windows of one apartment and sent shrapnel into walls and ceilings.
One of the dorm's black residents, Isaac Fields, told the 12-member jury Wednesday that the bombing and a threatening note he received the following day drove him to leave the St. George school.
"I felt scared for my life," Fields said. "I called my mom (in Oregon) and told her to get me the next ticket out of town."
Fields, who was attending Dixie on a football scholarship, said he and some of his team- and dorm-mates were playing basketball behind the Shiloh Dormitory on the night of Oct. 10, 1993, when they heard a loud explosion.
Rushing to the other side of the two-story brick building, they found that the windows in the room belonging to Gary Brown and Ronald Kemp had been shattered and the interior damaged, Fields said.
Outside, they spotted the remnants of an L-shaped pipe bomb labeled with a red "KKK" inside a metal box, Fields said.
When asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Warner to describe his reaction upon seeing the reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Fields said, "I was alarmed and scared. It meant somebody didn't want us here."
That feeling was reinforced the following day when he discovered a note at his door. The folded piece of paper contained a swastika, another reference to the "KKK," a drawing of someone hanging from a tree and a derogatory reference to killing all blacks.
Fields said the incident convinced him to leave Dixie College before the end of the quarter.
Keli Bryan, 21, a former Dixie College cheerleader, told jurors she was driving home from work the night of the explosion and saw "a kid on a bike coming out of the dorm as fast as he possibly could."
Bryan said she lived about a block from the Shiloh dorm and was able to see the bicycle speeding toward her immediately after the explosion. When he got near Bryan's car, the bicyclist lost control and crashed.
Bryan said she didn't get a good look of his face but described him as a small, white boy wearing jeans and a hooded sweat jacket.
Earlier Wednesday, Dixie College Police Chief Don Reid testified that during the investigation he asked Little for a couple of handwriting samples to compare with the note to Fields.
While conceding to defense attorney Benjamin Knowlton that he is not a handwriting expert, Reid said the comparison demonstrated to him that "we were on the right track."
Prosecutors have indicated they will present evidence showing that Little later boasted of the bombing to friends. After talking to some of those acquaintances, police obtained a search warrant for Little's apartment, where Reid said they found a loaded, Chinese-made assault rifle.
Prosecutors also intend to present evidence that when Little was 15 years old, he and a friend were accused in juvenile court of throwing a Molotov cocktail onto the property of a black family in California City, Calif.
If convicted of the bombing and civil rights violations, Little could be sentenced to five years in prison. The trial is being held before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson and is scheduled to last about two weeks.