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Originally published Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Ex-Army Ranger now charged in attempted murder

Luke Sommer, the ringleader of a band of renegade Army Rangers who staged a terrifying armed holdup of a Tacoma bank three years ago, now has been charged with attempted murder — for shanking one of his fellow bank robbers in the federal detention center at SeaTac in January.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The ringleader of a band of renegade Army Rangers who staged a terrifying armed holdup of a Tacoma bank three years ago now has been charged with attempted murder — for shanking one of his fellow bank robbers in the federal detention center at SeaTac in January.

Documents unsealed this week in U.S. District Court in Tacoma say Luke Sommer spent two months carefully plotting to kill Nathan Dunmall because he believed that Dunmall had cooperated with the government in their high-profile federal cases.

Finally, Sommer broke a piece off a stair-stepper exercise machine in the detention center, fashioned it into a makeshift knife and attacked Dunmall in his cell, the documents say. Dunmall suffered several wounds to his neck and shoulder, but was able to fend off his former friend until guards could separate them.

Sommer is charged with assault with intent to commit murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He is scheduled to appear in court today in Tacoma.

Sommer was sentenced to 24 years in prison in December for leading the takeover bank heist at a Bank of America branch on South Tacoma Way in 2006. The five robbers, some brandishing AK-47s and wearing body armor, made off with $54,000.

Sommer had recruited two other fellow Fort Lewis Rangers along with Dunmall and another man from Canada to join the team. Dunmall was a Canadian teenager and wasn't in the Army.

Prosecutors said Sommer wanted to raise money to start a powerful crime family in British Columbia. Sommer later told The Seattle Times he really just wanted to draw attention to alleged war crimes in Iraq.

Dunmall was sentenced in March to 10 years behind bars and the judge recommended he serve the time in a minimum-security facility and possibly be transferred to a Canadian prison.

But while Dunmall was awaiting sentencing, both he and Sommer we being held at the SeaTac facility. There were orders to keep them apart, and they lived in separate residential units.

However, Sommer managed to slip undetected into Dunmall's unit Jan. 23 when he was supposed to be in the medical unit for an appointment, the charging documents say. He pulled the shank out of his shoe and attacked Dunmall.

Dunmall was exhausted from lifting weights, but he knew he was "in the fight of his life," the documents say. He feared if he stayed in his cell that he would be no match for Sommer's Ranger training, the documents say.

Despite being stabbed, Dunmall managed to get into the hallway, where guards broke them up.

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As the pair were subdued, Sommer told Dunmall he would have him killed no matter what prison he was sent to.

"You can't hide anywhere," Sommer allegedly yelled as he was escorted away.

Ian Ith: 206-464-2109 or iith@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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