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White City man apologizes for trying to blow up DA's office

An apologetic White City man who tried to blow up the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office in Medford last November will spend 15 years in prison for his crime.

During Monday's sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Owen M. Panner also ordered Alan Leroy McVay, 47, to pay $14,825 restitution to Jackson County for the damage to the DA’s office.

“It is a very serious offense,” Panner said. “I’m satisfied the defendant is truly sorry for what he did.”

McVay, dressed in prison orange and in a cast after breaking his elbow over the weekend playing kick ball, said, “I understand that lives were at risk, and I didn’t want that.”

He said his intention was not to hurt anyone. The police investigation determined that McVay set off the explosive device in the early morning hours of Nov. 13 in a misguided effort to destroy records regarding his burglary and theft charges. McVay has a change-of-plea hearing on those charges in state court on Thursday.

“I’d like to apologize for what I have done,” he said.

Panner said McVay didn’t have a violent criminal record but did have problems with drugs. Panner said he hoped the 180 months in prison would help him recover.

“It won’t be easy,” he said. “You haven’t spent a lot of time in the penitentiary.”

McVay admitted to making an improvised pipe bomb by filling a carbon dioxide cylinder with gunpowder and taping it to the side of a 7-gallon propane tank. At about 4:30 a.m. Nov. 13, he lit a fuse and hurled the device through a front window of the DA's office at 715 W. 10th St.

The tank broke the window but got hung up in Venetian blinds. McVay fled on foot and made it about a block away before the cylinder exploded, blowing out more of the building's windows. The explosion ejected the device from the building, but did not detonate the fire-spewing propane tank.

While no one was injured, explosives experts said most of the building could have been leveled had the bomb exploded.

District Attorney Beth Heckert said local law enforcement and the FBI resolved the case quickly, but initially there was fear that there could be more bomb attacks.

“This is not just an attack on the DA’s office, this was an attack on the whole criminal justice system,” she said.

There was also the fear, which proved to be unfounded, that one of the deputy district attorneys, David Hoppe, was the target of the attack because he was prosecuting a murder-for-hire case, Heckert said.

Byron Chatfield, assistant U.S. attorney, said the outcome of McKay’s actions could have been far worse.

“Had that building been destroyed, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “It would have been a much more serious situation.”

Chatfield said McKay could have been looking at life in prison if the cylinder had exploded, or if there was someone in the building or nearby who had been harmed.

As it is, McKay’s actions produced a high level of concern and anxiety in the community, Chatfield said.

“I want to commend the Medford police and the FBI for quickly resolving the case,” he said.

Brian Butler, the federal public defender for McVay, said his client’s actions were the result of “frustration and an act of stupidity.”

He said McVay set off the explosive at 4:30 a.m. to make sure no one was around.

“It was a very foolish act,” Butler said.

Butler said a psychological examination has determined that McVay is not seriously mentally ill and isn’t likely to ever commit a similar offense.

He said that even though McVay’s family members don't condone his actions, they have continued to support him because his behavior fell so far outside his normal bounds.

“This was an aberration,” Butler said.

McVay’s family looked on as the judge pronounced the sentence.

“I’ve known him all of his life, and he made a stupid mistake,” said McVay’s sister, Helen Lindley of Central Point, after the sentencing. “He is paying for it.”

Despite this mistake, Lindley said, “He’s not a bad guy.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com . Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

Alan Leroy McVay