Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Miami Herald, May 7, 1976, "Explosives, Grenade Seized At Bomb Suspect's Apartment" by Edna Buchanan and Joe Crankshaw.

[Front Page Photo]

Explosives, clocks, a shotgun and a fragmentation grenade were seized from a "hermitish" young college student's Boca Raton apartment Thursday, hours after he and two other students were arrested planting a time bomb at an adult book store in Miami's Little Havana, police and FBI agents said.

Literature and letters which FBI men said were "not political but could pertain to bombings" were also found at the apartment of Gary E. Latham, a 22-year-old straight-A mechanical engineering Florida Atlantic University student.

Latham, Antonio De la Cova, 25, a University of Miami student seeking his masters in history and Blas Jesus Corbo, 21, a student at Miami Dade Community College, are being held in lieu of $200,000 bond each on a string of federal and state bomb and-or conspiracy charges.

Little was known immediately about Corbo.

De la Cova was known as a radical anti-Castroite who taught Cuban history at a military school deplored the spate of bombings that have plagued Miami and wrote about them in the Cuban publication Libertad.

On the campus of Florida Atlantic University, which he attended for two years, students remember him as a radical pro-Castroite who condemned American involvement in the Cuban situation.

Corbo, Latham and De la Cova have no prior records, police said.

Police wouldn't say whether the three were believed tied to any other bombings in the area. But in a search warrant for De la Cova's apartment, Thursday officials said they were looking for a "typewriter used to write threatening communications."

A tri-agency task force of FBI, Miami and Public Safety Department agents waited in darkness on a surveillance that sealed off 10-blocks from SW 32nd to 42nd Avenues at SW 8th Street Wednesday night and early Thursday.

The wait for 30 undercover men ended at 1:30 a.m. whne a brown 1974 Pinto owned by Latham rolled to a stop in a shopping center parking lot 75 yards from the adult book store at 3458 SW 8th St.

The occupational license for the shop - picketed by irate citizens last month - is issued to a man named Al Dowd, S.B.D. Inc., county records show.

De la Cova stepped from the car with a potentially lethal pipe bomb - dynamite wrapped around a pipe with a black powder fuse - in a brown paper sack under his arm, FBI agents said.

"He was walking like it was the middle of noon," a police officer said.

As De la Cova bent over, placing the bomb directly in front of the book shop's yellow door, the undercover men moved in on command, they said, guns drawn and shouting for him to halt.

Instead, he fled, still carrying the bomb, running first east and then west, no more than five feet in either direction, police said.

Seeing agents closing in, he dropped the bomb to the sidewalk, police said and reached for a .38 caliber revolver which fell from his shirt. He and the other two suspects, one of whom was on foot near the car and the other inside the Pinto, were arrested with no resistance.

Police described the suspects' reaction to their arrest as "total shock."

Metro Bomb Squad expert Tom Brodie, on stand-by during the surveillance, quickly dismantled the device.

Later Thursday a Metro bomb disposal truck rolled to the Geneva Apartments at 1721 NW 15th Vista in Boca Raton where Latham has rented a $185-a-month efficiency for two years.

FBI men and Boca Raton police took their search warrant in through a window because "they don't know what to expect, the door could be rigged," an officer said.

They also searched and photographed a grey Volkswagen parked nearby, apparently belonging to Corbo.

"I wouldn't call it a bomb factory," Boca Police Chief Charles McCutcheon told Herald Reporter Dorothy Gaiter, "but there were explosive devices in his apartment." He said his department had been part of the investigation for about two weeks, and that the trio so far has not been linked to other South Florida bombings.

"They do have reason to believe that the bomb found this morning came from this apartment," Chief McCutcheon said.

Two pounds of explosives were removed from the apartment, he said.

FAU declined to release information on Latham's scholastic career based on his right to privacy under the Buckley Amendment. School officials said they sent letters to all 4,000 FAU students advising them of their rights to privacy. Of the 4,000, 27 said they wanted privacy protection.

One of the books found in Latham's apartment, police said, was written by bomb expert Brodie - who stood by during the search to dispose of any explosives.

Neighbors described the 1972 graduate of Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale as a quiet, almost "hermitish" loner.

He was clad in blue jeans and a green army coat when arrested. He and De la Cova both wear gold rimmed round eyeglasses.

Neighbors also described De la Cova as "a very quiet man. He's lived alone for slightly more than a year in a single room on the top floor of an apartment house at 960 Le Jeune Rd.

Student President Jim Hardman said De la Cova's friends were primarily Arab students - mostly from the chemistry department.

Campus police say that on May 22, 1974 De la Cova, wearing a Palestine Liberation organization armband, complained that he was shot at by four youths with a shotgun in the campus parking lot.

He shot back four times, he said, with a .22 caliber revolver which he kept in his car. Campus security Lt. George Harper said no arrests were made and no evidence was ever found to substantiate the report.

During that time, students said, De la Cova wore knee high boots and a beret to symbolize his protest image.

Miami friends of De la Cova gave conflicting accounts, describing him as a fiery anti-Communist who left FAU because he felt some teachers were Marxist.

De la Cova wrote articles for Libertad, the Miami Spanish language newspaper whose editor, Rolando Masferrer was killed by a car bomb Oct. 31, 1975.

De la Cova's most recent contribution to Libertad was a Jan. 2, 1976 article detailing Miami's 47 bombings and 33 attempted bombings since January, 1975.

Corbo, a Havana-born permanent resident alien, told police he lives in South Miami Beach, at 660 Collins Ave. People at the apartment said they never heard of him.

Miami Police Chief Garland Watkins was at home, asleep during the wee hours Thursday when Miami FBI Chief Julius Mattson telephoned to say that the joint surveillance was successful.

All three agencies have worked together since November to solve area bombing cases.

The recent bombings, one of which cost WQBA radio station director Emilio Milian his legs last week, have resulted in outraged reaction from the community, police say.

"Community concern has been reflected in information to police agencies," Chief Watkins said.

The investigations and surveillances in past months have been "coordinated at top levels" of all three agencies, Watkins said.

Investigators said they hope the Thursday arrests will lead them to conclusions in other cases and said their efforts are continuing.

"You can't make one neat little package out of all the things that have happened over weeks and months," Watkins said. "We still need as much, or more information from the public."

Investigators said they had no motive for the attempted bombing of the book store.

The store operators gave land lord Soloman Latman notice that they will be closing four days ago, he said. Signs in the store, which feature 25 cent mini-movies, sex devices and magazines, say a 50 percent discount is in effect in a going out of business sale.

The manager, an attractive young woman, said she operates the store for a man in charge who represents out-of-town owners. She declined to give his name.

The $300-a-month, three year lease was signed by Al Dowd, who could not be reached Thursday for comment.

All the tenants in the sprawling building have complained about the adult bookshop since it opened in April, 1975, Latman said.

"He lied to me," Latman says, insisting he was unaware of the type bookstore planned when the lease was signed.

When he asked the potential tenant the type of book shop he said he was told that "Spanish books" would be sold.

Last month a group of demonstrators picketed the store but departed after less than a day. They were objecting to the store's presence, but neighboring businessmen said the demonstrators were strangers.

The store, open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. was extremely busy after 6 p.m. neighbors said.

closest neighbors are a doctor's office on one side and a bakery on the other.

The bookstore manager, who asked that her name not be used, said she knew nothing of the bomb attempt or any threats.

She said she did not know the suspects.

Latham and De la Cova are charged federally with conspiracy to violate civil rights, conspiracy to and attempting to bomb property used in interstate and foreign commerce, and possession of an unregistered destructive device.

Florida charges against them include, carrying a concealed firearm, having a gun while committing a crime, attempting to discharge a destructive device, and possession of a destructive device with intent to harm life, limb or property.

Corbo is charged with conspiracy to commit the violations.

Corbo, and the two others, appeared before the U.S. Magistrate Charlene Sorrentino who advised them of their rights and set a bond hearing for Friday.

She appointed Public Defender Ed Galante to represent Corbo. De la Cova said he would hire his own lawyer and Judge Sorrentino gave him until 10 a.m. Monday.

Copyright (c) 1976 The Miami Herald