Federal agents have wrapped up their investigation into the kamikaze-style attack on a law office in the Outer Banks.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office in Raleigh has concluded that Alan Lanier shot himself in the head after he drove his flaming pickup through the wall of the Twiford Law Firm office in Moyock.
Witnesses watched Lanier set fire to a hay bale in the bed of his truck before he sped off toward the Twiford office shortly after the close of business, said ATF spokesman Gerod King. He added that bystanders attempted to save Lanier after the crash, but the fire was too intense and they had to back off.
Investigators determined that Lanier used a revolver that was found inside his truck to kill himself, according to King. No one else was hurt in the Oct. 17 incident that destroyed the Twiford office and stunned the legal community.
The Currituck County Sheriff’s Office reported in a news release that Lanier’s truck was loaded with 40 gallons of gasoline, several propane tanks and a “manufactured explosive device.”
But ATF agents found no explosive device, only road flares, according to King. He suggested that local law enforcement had mistaken the flares for bombs. He also said that the truck was carrying “small containers” of gasoline along with two propane tanks.
The ATF investigation focused solely on the cause and origin of the fire, said King, who described the case as “clear cut.” “In this one, it was the truck and what he [Lanier] put in there,” he said.
The sheriff’s office and the State Bureau of Investigation are not releasing additional information about the incident, including Lanier’s possible motive, as they continue to investigate.
Court documents indicate that Lanier was disgruntled because he believed the Twiford firm had wronged him and his Russian girlfriend. The firm had represented his girlfriend in a civil suit against her ex-husband that resulted in a $3 million settlement.
After the girlfriend refused to pay Twiford for its work on her case, the firm bid on land that had belonged to her ex that was being auctioned off to pay the settlement. The firm intended to raise the price of the property so it could recoup its fees from the sale.
Lanier also bid on the property, but he lost to Twiford. The firm won the land, which had been valued at nearly $2.5 million, with a $250,000 bid.
Twiford’s branch in Moyock now operates out of a rented space near its charred office, said John Morrison, a partner at Twiford. He had represented Lanier’s girlfriend.
Morrison expected that the office would be rebuilt within nine months. Most of the firm’s files were backed up, but Morrison said it’s still been a struggle trying to recreate all that was lost.
“It’s not as easy as pushing a button,” he said. “We’re up and running, but every day there is some significant challenge that pops up.”
Files that were not destroyed in the fire have such severe water damage that they resemble “oatmeal,” Morrison said. A document salvage company is attempting to dry and save the soggy papers, which also reek of smoke.
“There’s not a protocol for being car bombed but there is for having your office destroyed. Basically, you get every case you have continued,” Morrison said. He added that he was having a difficult time comprehending why Lanier took such drastic measures.
“We all deal with parties who are adverse to us and get upset and we have clients that get upset from time to time,” he said. “But this is beyond the pale of your worst imagination.”
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