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Archive for Wednesday, April 28, 1999

BOMB THREAT INTERRUPTS AREA SCHOOL

April 28, 1999

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— The Jefferson County sheriff said investigators have narrowed their search for a culprit to two student suspects whom they planned to question.

Yet another bomb threat cleared McLouth schools Tuesday morning. It was the fourth time in a week that police search teams were called to the scene in response to telephoned threats or concerns of possible violence.

Police have found nothing during any of the searches indicating the threats were real. Students evacuated to area churches Tuesday were allowed back in the building about 10:50 a.m., school officials said.

The latest threat was left on the school's answering machine after hours Monday, said Jefferson County Sheriff Roy Dunnaway. Police were alerted the next morning after the message was played back.

Dunnaway said investigators have narrowed their search for a culprit to two student suspects whom they planned to question sometime Tuesday evening.

"We've got information," Dunnaway said. "And we know of two places the phone call could have come from. I can't say where they were. I can say one was from a business and one was from a residence. I would like to say that we're getting close."

Dunnaway said his office was waiting to receive permission from the two students' parents before questioning the youngsters.

A similar telephoned threat also cleared classrooms last Tuesday. Students returned to classes early in the afternoon after sheriff's officers and a Kansas Highway Patrol bomb-sniffing dog from Topeka searched the school complex. The same dog and handler were called to the school again this Tuesday.

Thursday and Friday of last week, police stationed themselves at a single, controlled entrance and checked the bags of senior high students as they entered the school. The precautions were taken, Dunnaway said, not because of another threat but because a worried student relayed concern to officials Wednesday evening that there might be trouble at the school on Thursday or Friday.

Dunnaway said his office and school officials will continue to exercise all precautions when threats are received, despite the spate of false alarms.

"As far as I'm concerned there's no choice," he said. "If we get it, we're going to have to take it seriously. Until we get something to charge somebody with we'll continue to respond. It's a bad deal because it's very time-consuming for the schools and for us."

Residents and students in the town of about 720 people about 25 miles northeast of Lawrence seem to be taking the threats in stride. On Tuesday morning students could be seen laughing and smiling on their way back to classes.

At the Harvest House restaurant Tuesday morning, the threats figured in the conversation over coffee. But so did the progress of spring gardens. The big question was why potatoes aren't up yet.

"It ain't lack of water," one man said.

"Maybe it ain't warm enough," said another.

Then talk switched briefly to the threats at school.

"When we went to school a bloody nose was all you could get," said one.

"That was quite a while back, Ralph," replied his friend.

-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is mshields@ljworld.com.

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