Former city police officer sentenced in blast
A former Pittsburgh policeman who was fired after shooting at a big rig during a fit of road rage told a federal judge Friday he didn't mean to hurt anyone when the bombs he was making last year blew off part of his arm.
"I didn't even know what the potential damage was before this happened," said Paul Anthony Palmer Jr., 39, who sports a teardrop tattoo below his right eye and a spider web design over the nub left by the amputation on his left forearm. Investigators claim Palmer's tattoos are typically associated with the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist group whose motto is "violence solves everything."
U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone sentenced Palmer, formerly of North Fayette, to 52 months in prison for his guilty plea to a charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device.
The former police officer faced up to 63 months, but the judge said he imposed a lesser sentence because of Palmer's police service, reports of mental health issues related to sexual abuse and family problems from his childhood and the fact that he injured only himself in the explosion.
"So, there's already been some punishment imposed, not by the court, but by himself," Cercone said.
Defense lawyer James Wymard argued his client deserved leniency due to serving more than 10 years on the police force, which would make him a target behind bars, and the fact Palmer is missing his left hand, which would make it difficult to defend himself if attacked.
On May 1, 2007, Palmer was making explosives inside his Redwood Drive home when static electricity sparked the blast that caused his injury, investigators determined. Palmer told Cercone he was making explosives in cardboard tubes that he planned to detonate with friends as part of a July 4th celebration. He said he'd made small explosives using wax and gun powder that he used to blow up pumpkins.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun Sweeney questioned Palmer's explanation, saying his devices included BB pellets -- which are often used to injure others.
Investigators last year seized from Palmer's house more bomb-making components, ammunition and "a large amount of literature and items commonly associated with white supremacist groups, in particular, the Aryan Nations," according to court documents.
In 2006, Palmer was convicted of aggravated assault for firing seven bullets into a tractor-trailer on the Parkway West in December 2003. Palmer, who was off-duty at the time, reportedly became enraged following a minor traffic incident with the truck driver on Interstate 279 near I-79.
Pittsburgh police fired him five months later.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin bringing officials to practice
- Vandergrift Arts & Crafts Festival showcases wide range of media
- Penguins notebook: Malkin picture muddy
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Public station WQED cutting staff in face of financial woes
- Multisport athletes help Derry cross country find success
- Animal Friends receives $1.5 million state grant
- $5M Penn Avenue reconstruction project is ‘killing everything’
- Jaguars’ Bortles is mirror image of Steelers’ Roethlisberger
- Steelers are vowing to fix the costly penalties, lack of self-discipline
- Mental health facility won’t take Franklin Regional stabbing suspect as patient