BOSTON GLOBE   NEW YORK TIMES   WASHINGTON POST   AMESBURY NEWS  

Boston Globe 

Charles Thomson, Agent Led ATF Probe Into Blasts

By Gloria Negri

Charles Renfrew Thomson, who led the federal ATF investigations into the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, died July 3 in his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 61.

The cause of death was cardiovascular collapse, said Mr. Thomson's brother-in-law Dr. George Pentoliros of South Hampton, N.H.

In the 1980s, Mr. Thomson served as assistant special agent in charge of the bureau's Boston Field Division, which covered New England. He went on to other ATF assignments in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, and returned to the Bay State as director and special agent in charge of the Boston division in 1998 and 1999, when he retired from the bureau.

In his retirement, he lived in North Hampton, N.H., before moving to Virginia several years ago.

In his 28-year career with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Mr. Thomson was involved in a number of memorable events. On the day of the World Trade Center bombing, he had just driven his car out of the center's garage, which is next door to the ATF office, said his former wife, Diane Gould Thomson of South Hampton.

"We were going to our home in New Hampshire, and Charlie had driven to our apartment nearby to pick me up," she said. "He called me on the phone from outside and said, 'That sounded like a bomb.' I ran down with the dog and got into the car, and we drove back to the Trade Center."

Mr. Thomson held the respect of the teams he headed. There was nothing he would ask his staff to do that he would not do himself, colleagues said.

"At the time of the 1993 bombing, people were willing to go the extra mile to get the job done for Charlie," said Delano A. Reid, assistant special agent-in-charge of the New York Field Division, who was on Mr. Thomson's Trade Center team. "He was a truly dedicated man, well-loved by everyone. A born leader."

After serving in leadership roles in the Army during the Vietnam War, he found that all the corporations he applied to for jobs "only wanted to know what fraternities he belonged to at Dartmouth," said his wife, Louise Lindblom Thomson. "Charlie didn't want to sit down behind a desk," she said. "He loved serving his country and believed he could do that as an ATF agent."

Mr. Thomson was born in New York. He was a descendant of Josiah Bartlett, a New Hampshire signer of the Declaration of Independence. He grew up in Ames bury and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in history.

As a captain in the Army from 1967 to 1970, Mr. Thomson first served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, leading a helicopter gunship platoon. He then worked in surveillance of the border between East and West Germany. Part of that job involved monitoring the movement of nuclear warheads.

He joined the ATF in 1971 as an undercover field agent in the New England area, based in Providence, his former wife said.

His brother-in-law recalled that in those days Mr. Thomson was "like Serpico, wearing a stocking hat with a shotgun in the backseat of the car."

In his undercover work, his wife said, Mr. Thomson followed motorcycle gangs around New England, hung out in their bars and got to know them in order to find gun traffickers.

In 1980, as assistant special agent in charge of the Washington Field Division, he headed a task force on the bombings of 10 abortion clinics, which led to the conviction of the attackers and won him a leadership award from the secretary of the treasury.

Mr. Thomson worked out of the Boston ATF office from 1985 to 1989, investigating and enforcing gun laws and heading arson teams on the East Coast, according to his former wife.

From Boston, he went to New York, where he served as special agent in charge of the New York division until 1993. Later in 1993, he became associate director for law enforcement at ATF headquarters in Washington. In that role, he had oversight of the ATF responses to the Oklahoma City bombing, an investigation for which he received the Presidential Rank Award.

Despite his career, Mr. Thomson was a quiet and unassuming man who loved to fish in the trout stream behind his New Hampshire yard, his family said. "He never once bragged to me about his distinguished career in law enforcement," said his son Eric of Durham, N.C.

Mr. Thomson's brother Eric of Amesbury recalled a ski trip the two took in Jackson Hole, Wy. He said: "We got caught in a storm at the top of Jackson Hole. Charlie fell and thought he lost his credentials. Turns out, they had fallen out of his parka at breakfast. They were turned in to the local sheriff who happened to be having an arson seminar going on. They got the best arson investigator in the ATF as a guest speaker."

After retiring in 1999, Mr. Thomson was a consultant on arson, explosives, antiterrorism, security, crisis management, and other law enforcement issues. But he remained in touch with the ATF.

Mr. Thomson also leaves his mother, Lavinia of Amesbury; a sister, Sally Pentoliros of South Hampton; and two stepchildren, Stephanie Eby of Alexandria and Hunter Lindblom of Birmingham, Ala.

Funeral services were held. A memorial service will be held Thursday 3:30 p.m. in St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Washington.


New York Times

Charles R. Thomson, 61, Federal Investigator of Terror, Dies

By Wolfgang Saxon

Charles R. Thomson, a leading federal firearms and explosives investigator who helped track down the people who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 and those who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City two years later, died Sunday at his home in Alexandria, Va. He was 61.

The cause was a heart attack, his family said.

When the car bombs rocked the World Trade Center garage in February 1993, Mr. Thomson, a resident of Manhattan at the time, was among the first on the scene. He was the special agent in charge of the New York office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, whose office then was just across the street, at 90 Church Street.

He led his own team of A.T.F. agents, later reinforced to about two dozen from national headquarters, as they joined a small army of kindred law enforcement personnel in sifting the debris and piecing together evidence once they dug up the exploding vehicle's identification number. Within days, the joint effort produced the results that later led to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Later that year, Mr. Thomson was named associate director for law enforcement at the Washington A.T.F. headquarters, in the Treasury Department. He oversaw all A.T.F. field officers in five headquarters divisions and their response to the Oklahoma City bombing, for which he received a presidential citation.

Charles Renfrew Thomson was born in Manhattan and raised in Amesbury, Mass., graduating from Dartmouth College with a history degree in 1965. He served as a captain in the Army, commanding a helicopter unit in Vietnam and then monitoring the deployment of Soviet nuclear warheads along the Iron Curtain in Europe. The job, flying along the border, required a high security clearance.

Mr. Thomson, a descendant of Josiah Bartlett, a New Hampshire signer of the Declaration of Independence, grew up with a sense of patriotic duty, his family said.

He started with the A.T.F. in 1971 as an undercover field agent in New England. Then, as a group supervisor in Philadelphia, he led the bureau's first arson task force.

In 1980, Mr. Thomson headed a task force that solved a rash of bombing attacks on women's clinics that performed abortions. His work earned him a leadership award from the secretary of the treasury.

Mr. Thomson headed the New York field division from 1989 to 1993. After his tenure as an associate director in Washington, he headed the Boston field division until retiring in 1999 from what has since become the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives under the Justice Department.

After that, he worked as a consultant in areas including antiterrorism and crisis management from his home in Hampton Falls, Mass. He returned to the Washington area in 2003.

Mr. Thomson is survived by his wife of eight years, Louise Lindblom Thomson; a son, Eric, of Durham, N.C.; his mother,Lavinia Thomson of Amesbury; a sister, Sally Pentoliros of South Hampton,N.H.; a brother, Eric, also of Amesbury; two stepchildren, Stephanie Eby of Alexandria, and Hunter Lindblom of Birmingham, Ala.; and two grandchildren. His first marriage, to Diane Gould Thomson of Amesbury, ended in divorce.


Washington Post

Terrorism Investigator Charles Thomson

By Joe Holley

Charles Renfrew Thomson, 61, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who helped apprehend the people who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, died of a heart attack July 3 at his home in Alexandria.

From 1989 to 1993, Mr. Thomson was special agent in charge of the ATF's New York field division. On Feb. 26, 1993, he was leaving the World Trade Center garage on his way home when he heard an explosion that was intended to bring down the building. Within a few days of the bombing, two dozen of his agents, working with law enforcement personnel from numerous agencies, discovered evidence that led to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Later in 1993, he became associate director for law enforcement at ATF headquarters in Washington, with responsibility for all ATF field offices and five headquarters divisions. As associate director, he oversaw the bureau's response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, an investigation for which he received the Presidential Rank Award.

Mr. Thomson was born in New York City and grew up in Amesbury, Mass. He received a bachelor's degree in history from Dartmouth College in 1965.

He was a captain in the Army from 1967 to 1970, serving as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam in 1967 and '68 and then working in surveillance on the border between East and West Germany. His duties included monitoring the movement of Soviet nuclear warheads along the Iron Curtain in Europe.

He began his career with the ATF in 1971 as an undercover field agent in the New England area. Later he became group supervisor in Philadelphia, where he headed the bureau's first arson task force. That experience led to a career-long involvement in ATF arson investigations and special-agent training.

In 1980, as assistant special agent in charge of the Washington field division, he headed a multi-agency task force that resulted in the arrest of those involved in the bombing of 10 abortion clinics. For his work on that case, he received a leadership award from the secretary of the treasury.

He then served as an ATF liaison to William W. Nickerson, deputy assistant secretary of the treasury for enforcement, a post in which he worked on money laundering, tax fraud and financial security investigations.

During his tenure as special agent in charge of the New York field division, he directed investigations into the activities of career criminals, narcotics traffickers, arsonists and those dealing illegally in firearms, as well as the World Trade Center bombers.

In 1995, he was appointed special agent in charge of the District and Virginia field division. In Richmond, he was involved with Project Exile, an initiative to bring all firearms crimes under federal jurisdiction. After a dramatic reduction in Richmond's crime rate, Project Exile was adopted nationwide.

Mr. Thomson retired in 1999, although he continued to work from his home as a consultant on crisis management, anti-terrorism and other law enforcement issues. He moved to Alexandria in 2003.

Retirement allowed him to indulge two of his years-long interests: growing bonsai plants, flowers and trees, and re-creating Native American culture, particularly traditional arts.

"He loved working with his hands," his wife said. "That was his way of relaxing."

His home was filled with tomahawks, toys, spirit sticks and other objects he carved in the Native American style from wood and stone he found in the New England and Washington area countryside. "He thought it was a thing of beauty to re-create their craft," his wife said.

Mr. Thomson's marriage to Diane Gould Thomson ended in divorce. A son from that marriage, Charles "Chuck" Thomson, died in 1986.

Survivors include his wife of eight years, Louise Lindblom Thomson of Alexandria; a son from his first marriage, Eric Thomson of Durham, N.C.; two stepchildren from his second marriage, Stephanie Eby of Alexandria and Hunter Lindblom of Birmingham; his mother, Lavinia Thomson of Amesbury; and a sister and brother.


Amesbury News

Charles R. Thomson

Charles Renfrew Thomson, 61, who led the investigations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, died of natural causes July 3, 2005, at his home in Alexandria, Va.

Mr. Thomson retired in 1999 after 28 years with the ATF. He was division director and special agent in charge of the Boston Field Division from 1998 to 1999. Previously, in the 1980s, he had served as assistant special agent in charge for this Division, which covered all of New England.

After retiring from the Bureau in 1999, he was a consultant on arson, explosives, antiterrorism, security, crisis management and other law enforcement issues from his home in Hampton Falls, N.H. He returned to the Washington area in 2003.

In 1995, Mr. Thomson was appointed special agent in charge of the Washington, D.C. and Virginia Field Office. In Richmond, Va., he was a leading force behind Project Exile, which brought all firearms crimes under federal jurisdiction. This led to a dramatic reduction in Richmond's homicide rate, and the program is now in operation nationwide.

He served as special agent in charge of the ATF's New York Field Division from 1989 until 1993. As he was leaving the World Trade Center garage Friday, February 26, 1993, he heard the explosion occur behind him. Within a few days of the bombing, agents under his supervision discovered the evidence that ultimately led to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. As a result, his expertise was sought by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland. Mr. Thomson traveled there as an advisor on IRA terrorist bombings and weapons acquisition.

Later in 1993, Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen announced that Mr. Thomson would become associate director for law enforcement at ATF headquarters in Washington, with responsibility for all ATF field officers and five headquarters divisions. As associate director, he assumed oversight of the ATF response to the Oklahoma City bombing, an investigation for which he received the Presidential Rank Award.

In 1980, as assistant special agent in charge of the Washington, D.C. Field Division, Mr. Thomson headed a multi-agency task force into the bombing of 10 abortion clinics. The probe led to the arrest and conviction of those responsible and a Special Award for Leadership from the secretary of the Treasury. He then served as liaison for ATF to the assistant deputy secretary of the Treasury for Law Enforcement, William Nickerson, where he worked on money laundering, tax fraud and financial security investigations.

Mr. Thomson began his career with the ATF in 1971 as an undercover field agent in the New England area. While group supervisor in Philadelphia, he headed ATF's first arson task force. The experience led to a career-long involvement in ATF arson investigations and special agent training.

Mr. Thomson was a captain in the U.S. Army from 1967 to 1970. He was a helicopter pilot, leading a helicopter gunship platoon in Vietnam from November 1967 to November 1968. He then worked surveillance of the political border between East and West Germany, which included monitoring the movement of nuclear warheads.

Mr. Thomson was very interested in American Indian culture and studied their traditional arts. His home is full of many pieces he carved from wood and stone objects he found in the New England and the Washington area countryside.

Born Oct. 22, 1943, in New York City, Mr. Thomson grew up in Amesbury, where his father, Charles R. Thomson, was a physician. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1965.

He is survived by his wife of eight years, Louise Lindblom Thomson of Alexandria, Va.; his first wife, Diane Gould Thomson of Amesbury; his son, Eric Thomson and wife, Julia Kulla-Mader, of Durham, N.C.; his mother, Lavinia Thomson of Amesbury; his sister, Sally Pentoliros, her husband, George Pentiliros and their son, Tyler Pentoliros, of South Hampton, N.H.; his brother, Eric "Rick" Thomson of Amesbury; and his stepchildren, Stephanie Eby of Alexandria, Va. and Hunter Lindblom of Birmingham, Ala.

He was also the father of the late Charles "Chuck" Thomson.

Arrangements will be announced by the Paul C. Rogers & Sons Family Funeral Home of Amesbury.