Statewide Scare: 31 Tenn. Courthouses Receive Bomb Threats

News Sentinel, November 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

Statewide Scare: 31 Tenn. Courthouses Receive Bomb Threats


Three threatening calls, all within about 10 minutes, came in to the Knox County Courthouse on Tuesday morning, but staffers already were more skeptical than scared after the first.

"The first time, a guy called in and said there was an atomic bomb in the courthouse," said Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett, whose employees fielded the bomb threat calls, beginning about 10:30 a.m. "Then he called back, and said there were many bombs in the courthouse.

"I don't know what he said the third time."

Regardless, the threats were taken seriously enough, he said, to notify the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the Public Building Authority, which manages the courthouse and the nearby City County Building downtown.

"They brought a bomb dog in," said Arnett. "But we kept doing business as usual and didn't evacuate."

Ultimately, the calls were among a flurry of bogus bomb threats made to 31 courthouses and other government facilities across Tennessee on Tuesday, including the federal building in downtown Memphis, according Dean to Flener, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman.

Statewide, government workers in 24 courthouses were ordered out of the their offices, some for several hours. The federal building in Memphis, which houses the federal court and other federal offices, was evacuated around 9 a.m. for a couple of hours while authorities checked it.

No explosives were found at any of the sites.

A similar bomb threat hoax last week targeted 28 courthouses in Oregon. Threats also were reported this month in Washington and Nebraska, according to The Associated Press.

So far, the FBI is assisting state and local authorities with investigations into the threats, although the person or people responsible may also face federal charges, said Marshall Stone, supervisory special agent with the FBI's Knoxville division.

And while authorities have yet to confirm that the calls among the various states are related, "Logic suggests there would be a connection," Stone said.

Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said she had no details about the contents of the calls, and that the department is assisting various local agencies in the investigation.

A threat at the Anderson County Courthouse was phoned into the Anderson County Clerk's Office at 11 a. …

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