This was complicated by the fact that on a casino floor there were millions of dollars in negotiable instruments–money and casino chips, coins in the machines. All of that had to be recovered and considered while we’re searching for evidence.
When I got out there and got the full story it was reported that somewhere in the middle of the night these fellows delivered this bomb on a cart or a dolly, rolled it into the casino main floor into an elevator and took it up to the administrative offices with a cover over it that said IBM, and it was ostensibly a delivery of a piece of office equipment. As the case developed we came to know that John Birges Sr. was the principal person involved in this case, along with his two sons, two other accomplices, and his girlfriend. This device was a pretty sophisticated, quite complicated piece of machinery unlike anything we’d seen before, or anybody in the bomb disposal business had ever seen before. And this horrific explosion took place and the crowds cheered and there was reveling. And since no one was hurt it seemed to be a celebration the tourists kind of enjoyed and took part in. But, of course, that was just the beginning of the FBI’s work trying to process the scene and gather evidence.
What we know about it afterwards is that it virtually was undefeatable. There were eight fusing systems, as it turned out. The timer simply was one of them. The anti-motion switch was another. The float mechanism was another. The device was enclosed in a metal box and the lid of the box was secured by some flat head screws around the perimeter of the lid. Those screws were attached to wires and contacts so that if they were removed that would detonate the device. There were layers of rubber and metal on the inside of the metal box so that of an entry was attempted–a drilling or some inspection entry was made–that that contact would function the bomb. Share on Twitter Twitter Share on Facebook Facebook Email Email A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites. And the crowds gathered around at a safe distance and the device was functioned.
The neighboring casinos weren’t necessarily evacuated if they were in a safe area. So the people that were there on holiday and gambling began to make book on when the bomb would go off, or if it would go off. I mean the casinos set up the gambling procedures on this event. Retired Special Agent Chris Ronay describes the FBI’s role in the investigation of an “undefeatable” 1,000-pound bomb at a Nevada casino in 1980. Harvey’s bomb was probably for me the biggest event, or the biggest bombing case I was ever involved with.