October 30, 2009 - 9:00 am
Whodunnit? Who placed a crude car bomb in Harry Reid’s family car in 1981, after he was no longer chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission? Was it the mob?
In his book, “The Good Fight,” Reid wrote there was speculation the man behind it was Jack Gordon, who went to jail for trying to bribe Reid with $12,000 in 1978 to approve a gaming device.
(When he got out of jail, Gordon married LaToya Jackson, but that’s another story.)
Reid wrote that his good friend Gary Bates offered to kill Gordon after the Reid’s car was sabotaged, but Reid told him not to do it. Bates, a former boxer who has known Reid since childhood, confirmed Friday he offered to kill Gordon. “And I’d do it again,” he said, confirming that Reid’s version in his book is accurate.
Bates, 64, is a former bodyguard for Reid, and said he believed the bomb was either the work of Gordon or Frank Rosenthal, who also butted heads with Reid on the commission. No charges were ever brought.
Here’s how Reid described what happened on July 29, 1981. At the time, the Reid family lived at 313 Lacy Lane in Las Vegas.
Excerpt from "The Good Fight":
“We had two cars, one of them an Oldsmobile station wagon, which was good with five kids. I usually drove the other car to the office. It was late one afternoon that Landra called. She rarely called me at work, and this call was immediately something very different. Her voice was taut. ‘Whatever you do,’ she said, ‘don’t start the car.’
" ‘Why?’ I asked.
"She had taken the station wagon to drive our son to a scout meeting. Our daughter, Lana, had been complaining for a few days that the station wagon was not running right, but she was a teenager, what did she know? In any case, we hadn’t yet gotten around to taking it in for a check-up.
"On the way home, Landra noticed that the engine was starting to lurch, then misfire. She didn’t think too much of it, but then as she pulled into the driveway, she was suddenly struck by the memory of a dinner conversation from a few weeks before.
"We were at a restaurant with George Swartz (Note: Swarts is the correct spelling) and his wife when he told us that he had recently noticed that his car was running strangely. He pulled into his driveway, shut off the engine and went to check under the hood. Ite was there that he saw a coaxial cable at the battery, which had been wound back to the gas tank and rigged with a spark plug. A crudely-constructed bomb — one spark in the fuel tank and the car explodes into a deadly inferno. But George was lucky. Whoever rigged his car hadn’t grounded the wire properly, and the bomb failed to detonate. The police didn’t know what to make of it, and neither did the Swartzes. It could have been someone just trying to scare them. It could have been anybody.
"Back in our driveway, Landra remembered what George had told us. She turned off the engine and lifted the hood. A wire had been wound from the spark plug and then trailed off to somewhere out of sight. Then she opened the gas tank. The same wire. She ran straight into the house and called me. Don’t start your car!
"I don’t think I can describe fully how terrifying the next few minutes were. My son was at a scout meeting. Was he safe? Where was Lana? I didn’t even want to consider the fact that she had been behind the wheel of that car for days. The police were sent to gather our children and escort them home safely, and the bomb squad arrived to examine the station wagon. Apparently the gas tank hadn’t detonated because the tip of the spark plug had broken off, but it didn’t matter. I came home that night to a family that had been living in terror for years, and it seemed now like it might be a permanent condition.
"I will never forget the sight of Key, our youngest son, staring out from the driveway from the bay window in the dining room. He just stood there, mesmerized by the flashing lights and all the craziness. And afraid. He wasn’t yet six years old, but kids take everything in, and they understand.”