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UPDATE: Shelton bombing suspect found dead in cell

Larry Gillette, 52, was found dead in his cell Wednesday. The Shelton man arrested for plotting to detonate powerful explosives at a Walmart and two gas stations had also planned to blow up the Seattle Space Needle, a federal official tells KIRO Radio. (Department of Corrections photo)

UPDATE: A Shelton man charged this week for a plot to blow up two gas stations and a Walmart store as a diversion for bank robberies has been found dead in his cell.

According to a federal law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, Larry Gillette, 53, had also discussed a desire to blow up the Seattle Space Needle.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Thursday that 52-year-old Larry Ray Gillette was discovered unresponsive at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac on Wednesday and was taken to a hospital, but could not be revived. The FBI is investigating death as an apparent suicide, but no details were immediately released about the cause.

It is not clear how viable the alleged threat to blow up the Space Needle was was.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the investigation. The source said Seattle officials, including Mayor Ed Murray, were briefed on the threat.

The Seattle Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. The mayor’s office and the FBI deferred comment to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which said it would not comment on anything outside the boundaries of the current criminal complaint.

“We discuss only what he’s actually been charged with,” said Emily Langlie, a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle said Tuesday that Gillette, 53, planned to bomb a Walmart store, an Arco, and a Chevron gas station as a diversion so he could commit a series of bank robberies, and even attempted to detonate a car bomb that had been rendered inoperable by authorities.

“The plot allegedly anticipated that while first responders were busy with the bombings, Gillette would rob three banks,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which made no mention of the Space Needle. “Gillette indicated he wanted the maximum loss of life to occur in the bombings and the bank robberies.”

Law enforcement officials with the Seattle Safe Streets Task Force and the Seattle Police Department’s Major Crimes Task Force were tipped off to Gillette’s plot while he was serving a state prison sentence for identity theft.

When he was released from prison on April 14, Gillette rendezvoused with an undercover police detective posing as a supplier with access to firearms and explosives.

The detective recorded Gillette detailing his plot on several occasions, according to federal prosecutors, and helped him obtain four Glock firearms that were modified so they would not fire.

Gillette was charged in U.S. District Court in Tacoma Tuesday with solicitation to commit a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press was included in this report.

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