LOPD detective: 'There's always an electronic trail'
Jonithan Funkhouser honored for tracking down the teenagers responsible for two school bomb threats
Early last year, a 14-year-old Lake Oswego boy contacted his buddy in Louisiana and talked about his problems.
The teen was worried about a test he was scheduled to take at Lake Oswego Junior High School. He wanted to avoid it, and his 14-year-old Louisiana friend assured him everything would be okay.
Dont worry, the boy said. Ill get you out of it.
On Jan. 14, 2014, administrators at LOJ received a phone threat that a bomb would soon go off at the school. They evacuated all 975 students while the Lake Oswego Police Department searched for bombs. Ten days later, a similar call was made to the school, and once again 975 students had to be evacuated.
No bombs were found in either instance, but officers were convinced that there had to be a connection between the two calls. So LOPD Det. Jonithan Funkhouser went to work.
We kept on this one, Funkhouser says. We wanted to see how far we could go.
Funkhousers persistence paid off, and last week he was given the Distinguished Service Award by the Oregon Peace Officers Association for tracking down the boys who made the threats and making sure they were prosecuted. His work could prove to be a real turning point in stopping phony threats at Oregon schools.
This is the first time weve ever dealt with anything like this, says Funkhouser, a 10-year veteran of the force. A lot of people think they can remain anonymous. But theres always an electronic trail, and it always leads back to the start of everything. We had a lot of incentive to get this case solved and to get it solved quickly.
Funkhouser says bomb threats and incidents of swatting, in which pranksters call police to the scene of crises that turn out to be hoaxes, put citizens and officers in danger.
Wed get calls from addresses where the surrounding houses were clueless about what was happening. It really taxes the resources of a police department, he says. We had 31 officers on 10 calls with a total investigation time of almost 49 hours.
After the dual bomb threats at LOJ, Funkhouser tirelessly went through phone records until he had enough evidence that pointed to a 13-year-old boy in West Virginia as the source of the hoaxes. Accompanied by LOPD Sgt. Mike McIrvin, he went to West Virginia to serve a warrant.
At first, Funkhouser wasnt allowed to interview the suspect. But when he did get permission, the boy not only confessed but pointed police to his accomplices two 14-year-old boys, one in Lake Oswego and one in Louisiana, who had met online.
Eleven months of detective work followed as Funkhouser put the pieces together and obtained 15 subpoenas to search phone records. In the end, the three teenagers were prosecuted and convicted.
We just worked it like any other case, Funkhouser says. Only it took longer.
The West Virginia boy was sentenced to 28 days in custody, 50 hours of community service, two years of probation and was ordered to attend public school instead of continuing to be home schooled. The Louisiana boy pleaded no contest to the charges; he was sentenced to one year in custody, which was suspended, and one year of active probation. The Lake Oswego boy was convicted of one count of initiating a false report and was sentenced to 60 months of supervised probation.
Making threats like this seems to be a fad, Funkhouser says. Things like this are still happening all over the country. Some kids record their threat calls on the Internet.
But the hope is that Funkhousers success will make prank callers think twice.
We havent had another phone threat since this happened, he says. As far as this being a deterrent to anyone else in the future, Im not sure. But as more people become aware of what happened in this case, I think there will be an impact.