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Explosive device at St. Helens High School prompts evacuation, leads to arrest

Classes resume with no injuries

Photo Credit: MARK MILLER - School officials and police outside St. Helens High School on Friday, Sept. 26, shortly after students returned to school after being temporarily evacuated due to an improvised explosive device found in a student's locker.Classes were disrupted at St. Helens High School on Friday morning, Sept. 26, by a bomb scare.

School officials said a student alerted staff that another student had brought an explosive device to school. Students and staff were evacuated from the building, and police found the improvised explosive in a student locker.

The device was confiscated and the boy believed to have manufactured the explosive was arrested, St. Helens Police Chief Terry Moss said.

The Spotlight is not using the suspect's name because he is being charged as a juvenile. Moss identified him as a 16-year-old sophomore at the school.

Moss said the device was reported to police at about 8:40 a.m. Friday. The arrest was made at about 9 a.m., he said.

Police said the school was determined be safe at 10:45 a.m., after an explosives team with the Oregon State Police removed and neutralized the device. Busloads of students returned to St. Helens High and classes were to resume.

Students were first evacuated to the high school stadium, and then later moved to the shuttered Columbia City School, which is owned by the St. Helens School District, Superintendent Mark Davalos said. He said all students were evacuated during the incident.

According to police, the evacuation order was lifted before all students could be bused from the stadium to Columbia City.

BG Aguirre, the school's principal, said everybody was “110 percent safe” after the bomb scare, and no injuries were reported.

“I would like to thank my staff, the St. Helens Police Department and OSP for getting this all taken care of in under two hours and helping us resume classes,” Aguirre said, reading a prepared statement.

Davalos and Moss lauded school staff and administrators for their response to the scare.

“Everybody responded well,” Davalos said. “I'm proud of the staff and how they managed our kids and got them to a safe place.”

“I have no issues with the whole process," said Moss. "I thought they made an appropriate call in evacuating, making sure all the students were safe, giving us room to do our job and as quickly as we could.”

The boy who was arrested was lodged in a juvenile detention facility in Longview, Wash., according to Moss. Columbia County has an agreement with Cowlitz County, Wash., to house certain juvenile offenders there.

No actual bomb threat was made, Moss said.

“Nobody called and said there's a bomb, or anything like that,” said Moss. “This kid made this device. Another student either heard about it or saw it and told staff. They started a little investigation, called us, brought the kid in, and he admitted that he did have it and it was in his locker.”

Police removed the device, which Moss confirmed was an explosive, for additional evaluation, the chief said. He said

OSP explosive experts are examining it.

Moss described the explosive as a "pretty simple device, pretty rudimentary, but has the ability to explode and cause some damage.”

The boy who was arrested was arraigned Monday on charges of unlawfully manufacturing and possessing a destructive device, before being released into the custody of his parents, KOIN 6 News reported.

KOIN also reported that a second suspect has been identified by police but has not been charged.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that while all students were evacuated to the high school stadium, according to police, not all had been loaded onto buses and transported to the Columbia City School by the time the all clear signal was given.

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