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Courthouse target of bomb threats

The past week saw two bomb threats called in to state courts

Not one, but two bomb threats were called in to Columbia County Circuit Court administrators over the past week.

Monday morning, Oct. 6, courthouse employees and visitors were evacuated following a bomb threat made to state courts. Responding law enforcement officials cleared the building and everyone was allowed back in.

The following day, Tuesday, Oct. 7, state courts received the same type of threat.

County Clerk Betty Huser confirmed Tuesday that she and fellow employees spent some time outside in the sunshine as law enforcement officials swept the building.

Sgt. Yvette Shephard of the Oregon State Police work station in St. Helens confirmed that an OSP trooper was called in around 8 a.m. to assist with Monday’s threat.

Shephard said that, during a bomb threat situation, everyone is cleared from the building before law enforcement can investigate. If a device of any kind is located, a bomb team is summoned for further assistance.

“What we want to do is clear the building, make sure everyone is in a safe location, and then law enforcement will go through the buildng and make sure everything is clear,” Shephard said.

Tuesday’s threat came around noon, when many employees were set to take a lunch break.

Jan Greenhalgh, the Board of Commissioners office administrator, said she left for lunch shortly after the threat came in and was cleared to re-enter the building about an hour later.

“It’s a little discomforting,” she said of the threats.

Columbia County Commissioner Earl Fisher addressed the threats Wednesday during the board’s regular meeting. He said the threats are taken seriously and that they use up county staff time and tie up law enforcement officials.

“It’s a very high-stress level for anybody that’s involved,” Fisher said.

This week’s phone threats mark three in less than two months and at least four since May at the Columbia County Courthouse. In August, the courthouse was evacuated on a Wednesday morning after a bomb threat. The same thing happened in May.

On Friday, Sept. 26, students and faculty at St. Helens High School were evacuated after officials did find an explosive device on campus.