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Police: Transgender woman arrested in ID bomb plot

July 12, 2010

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PAYETTE, Idaho—A transgender woman who was at odds with police over how they acknowledged her gender identity in a 2007 traffic citation was arrested for investigation of rigging what appeared to be four pipe bombs to a propane tank at her home, torching her car then running naked along a rural highway.

Catherine Carlson, 53, was arrested Sunday after firefighters responding to a report of a fire found pipes made to look like bombs on the porch of her trailer home in Payette, with a note warning of a booby-trap, authorities said.

About 50 homes were evacuated in the southwestern Idaho city when another call came in, reporting a car fire at a storage unit on U.S. Highway 95. The vehicle had been doused in gasoline.

Another call alerted police to a naked woman running down the highway, carrying what also appeared to be a pipe bomb. Police later learned the pipe contained legal documents, not explosives.

"She's had some issues with the Payette County jail regarding her sexual orientation," Payette Police Chief Mark Clark told KIVI-TV. "During questioning, Carlson said she is trying to bring attention to her plight."

Carlson was being held in Payette County jail on suspicion of use of weapons of mass destruction, arson and indecent exposure. It could not be immediately determined if she had a lawyer.

Carlson legally changed her name to Catherine Carlson more than three decades ago, before she had a sex change operation in 1980.

In 2007, she clashed with authorities over a traffic citation after they included her given name, Daniel Carlson, on some documents. The name Daniel Carlson is listed as an "aka," or "also known as," on the citation records.

Since receiving the citation, Carlson has been jailed at least four times for investigation of failure to appear for court-ordered community service, driving without a license and other allegations.

Among other things, she objected to being held in a cell by herself, rather than in a housing unit for female prisoners, as she had requested.

Payette County prosecutor Anne Marie Kelso didn't immediately return a phone call following an initial court hearing Monday.

Idaho State Police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were among about a half-dozen agencies that responded to the incident on Sunday.

A bomb-squad robot was used to blow up the pipes found at the trailer home. The Payette Police Department didn't immediately respond to a question about the composition of those devices.

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