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County courthouse bomb threat one of 28 statewide

Employees were allowed to return to work in 45 minutes

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County employees and others who had to evacuate the Courthouse are briefed by Prineville Police Captain Michael Boyd before being allowed back inside the building.

On Tuesday afternoon, an unknown subject phoned in a bomb threat to the Crook County Courthouse prompting an immediate evacuation of the building.
   As it turns out, Crook County was not the only community threatened.
   Between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. that day, at least 28 county courthouses throughout Oregon received bomb threats as well as the Oregon Public Service Building, in Salem. Counties receiving threats varied from Baker, Union, and Umatilla counties in the northeastern portion of the state to Benton and Tillamook counties west of the Cascades.
   For local law enforcement, bomb threats occasionally happen.
   “It’s not all that uncommon, unfortunately,” said Prineville Police Captain Michael Boyd.
   However, they have never faced a threat that coincided with multiple ones statewide, and it prompted the Prineville police to refer the case to the Oregon State Police (OSP) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). As it turns out, the State Police don’t typically see mass bomb threats either.
   “I think it was pretty unique,” said OSP Lieutenant Gregg Hastings.
   When local law enforcement personnel first responded to the threat, they did not realize their threat was one of many. However, this would not have changed the urgency with which they reacted.
   “Obviously, we take this thing super serious because of things that have happened, like in Woodburn,” Boyd said. “You would be crazy not to.”
   When the call first came in, Crook County Sheriff’s deputies went to the Courthouse to secure the facility, making sure that no one else entered the building.
   “People who are leaving the building, we try to get as much information from them as possible,” said Crook County Undersheriff John Gautney. “My first job was to locate the person who took the call and get their information as to what happened on the call.”
   Prineville police meanwhile did a perimeter search of the Courthouse.
   “We typically check all of the common areas,” Boyd said. “We ask employees, once we believe it is safe, to check their work spaces (for suspicious devices) as well.”
   So far, none of the threats that occurred throughout the state have led to the discovery of suspicious devices. Crook County law enforcement allowed people back into the Courthouse about 45 minutes after the initial call.
   At this time, OSP is continuing the investigation and no suspects have been identified. Although nobody knows who is behind the mass threats, Boyd has his suspicions on what might have motivated the subject’s actions.
   “It sounds like whoever is doing this just really has a general grudge against courts or the court system or something, and wanted to do as much disturbance as possible,” he said. “It disrupted government process for a while.”
   The Prineville Police Department is asking anyone who has information regarding the recent bomb threat to call them at 541-447-4168.