Bomb threats force 8 Wash. courthouses to evacuate
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Multiple bomb threats forced eight Washington courthouses to evacuate Thursday afternoon, and officials don't yet know if the threats were coordinated.
The Thurston County Courthouse complex was evacuated at roughly 3:30 p.m. after receiving a bomb threat over the phone. Workers in all three of the courthouse buildings left for the day as law enforcement swept the area.
The roughly 400 inmates housed inside building one were not evacuated, according to Lt. Greg Elwin with the Thurston County sheriff's department.
Elwin said county employees were on edge after the call came in.
"It's very alarming to everyone who works here," he said. "We had to escort people out of courtrooms, get judges off of benches and disrupt citizens who were here doing business."
By Thursday evening, the entire complex had been searched using bomb sniffing dogs and no suspicious devices were found.
Similar bomb threats forced Chelan and Douglas County officials to evacuate their courthouses, according to the Wenatchee World newspaper.
Wenatchee Police Chief Tom Robbins said a man called into the Chelan County Auditor's office at 3:15 p.m. claiming there were bombs in the courthouse set to go off in 18 minutes, according to the newspaper.
Authorities evacuated the courthouse and searched the area, but did not find a bomb.
Douglas County Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal told the Wenatchee World that the Douglas County Commissioner's Office received a phone call at 3:52, warning them of a bomb in the courthouse.
Deputies searched the courthouse, but nothing unusual turned up.
The Benton and Adams County courthouses also received telephone bomb threats Thursday afternoon, according to county officials.
Adams County Undersheriff John W. Hunt said a man called the the Superior Court Clerk's Office just before 3:30 p.m. to say several bombs were in the building and would detinate in 20 minutes. The building was evactuated while deputies searched area. Nothing suspicious turned up and employees were let back into the building just before 4:30 p.m.
At roughly 3:20 p.m., a man called officials in Clark County and said there were several explosive devices inside the courthouse in Vancouver. The man said the bombs would go off in 20 minutes. The building was evacuated and searched, but no devices were found. The courthouse reopened a short time later.
Similar threats were called in to the Pacific and Columbia County courthouses.
King, Grays Harbor and Whatcom County officials say they did not receive any threats, and the Kitsap, Snohomish and Skagit County courthouses were all closed Thursday afternoon.
This is the second time in less than two weeks that a state has been inundated with bomb threats. Elwin pointed to a Nov. 2 incident in Nebraska when 9 courthouses received bomb threats within an hour of each other.
Just like Thursday's Washington bomb threats, the caller in the Nebraska cases told court clerks there were bombs in the courthouse set to go off.
No arrests have been made in that case.