Bomb scares: Who made all those calls?
WENATCHEE, Nov 16, 2012 (The Wenatchee World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Local law officers are digging deeper today to track the voice and phone number of the bomb-scare caller -- or callers -- who triggered Thursday's evacuations of the Chelan and Douglas county courthouses, two of eight similar bomb threats around the state.
The phoned-in threats led to the evacuation of hundreds of employees and visitors at courthouses in Chelan, Douglas, Benton, Adams, Clark, Thurston, Pacific and Columbia counties. All buildings were searched and no devices found.
By late this morning, no state or federal agency had taken the lead in the overall investigation. The Wenatchee Police Department headed the investigation at the Chelan County Courthouse and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at the courthouse in Waterville.
But Steve Burns, director for the Washington State Fusion Center, a federal clearinghouse for terrorist and criminal investigations in Seattle, said incoming reports on the bomb threats would be studied and discussed this morning. The center will analyze the reports to see if they tie to a single person or group, he said.
The center provides analytical help on info gathered in investigations by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Washington State Patrol and local law agencies in broader investigations requiring multiple resources.
As yet, the State Patrol has not joined in local investigations, said spokesman Darren Wright, "but we'd be ready to help local agencies if called."
In Wenatchee, the bomb-scare call came at 3:15 p.m. to the clerk's office at the Chelan County Superior Court. The caller announced there were multiple bombs in the building set to detonate in 18 minutes.
An earlier police report incorrectly reported the call had been received at the county auditor's office.
"The voice was identified as possibly an older male, but the person answering the phone couldn't identify him," said Chief Tom Robbins of the Wenatchee Police Department. "We'll be attempting today to track the call, maybe learn the (phone) number, even though that may prove difficult."
A similar threat was called into the County Commissioners office at the Douglas County courthouse at around 3:22 p.m., according to County Commissioner Ken Stanton.
Both facilities were immediately evacuated, bringing court sessions to an abrupt halt in Wenatchee and sending clerks into Memorial Park while clutching papers and folders.
Following the evacuation in Wenatchee, more than 100 employees and visitors stood in nearby Memorial Park or lined neighborhood streets while a recorded message urged an emergency evacuation of the building.
By 5 p.m., employees at both courthouses were allowed to return to the buildings to retrieve personal items. In Wenatchee, Department of Corrections officers escorted employees into the buildings.
"We're trying to figure out what the tie might be among all these threats," said Robbins. "We originally thought it might be a disgruntled local person trying to disrupt the courthouse, but now it looks like that might not be the case."
Mike Irwin: 665-1179
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