School officials respond to bomb threat

Police talking to 'person of interest'

The essentials

  • Calls threaten bomb attacks on unspecified schools and city hall
  • Officers take person of interest to police station
  • Police notify school districts in the county, and school officials can decide what action they want to take
  • Douglas County schools go into ‘semi-lockdown’ mode
  • Early sweeps turn up nothing

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Police are talking with a so-called “person of interest” in bomb threats called in this morning to law enforcement dispatchers.

“We do have a person of interest at the station,” said Lawrence police Capt. David Cobb. “He is not currently under arrest. He is being interviewed. They are still at the location, working with a search warrant.”

The location that Cobb referred to was in East Lawrence, southeast of 11th and Connecticut streets.

Cobb said he expected more updated information soon.

He said a series of “three or four” bomb threats were made this morning to 911 dispatchers.

The threats have been “non-descript and generic” without being specific about a location, Cobb said. The caller, a male, has mumbled words about a bomb at a school and city hall. The caller doesn’t say what school or even what city, Cobb said.

Police have notified school districts in the county and school officials can decide what action they want to take, Cobb said.

“We have had some schools ask us to send out officers, but we don’t have enough officers to send to all the schools,” Cobb said.

Police are trying to track down the caller. The first suspicious calls began about 5:30 a.m. but the caller didn’t say anything, Cobb said. Additional calls were made with the verbal threats up to about 8 a.m., Cobb said.

All of Lawrence’s public schools were placed in a “heightened state of alert” this morning, according to Superintendent Randy Weseman said.

“The police department received a non-specific threat of that nature,” Weseman said about 8:30 a.m..

“Right now we have our team working with every school,” he said. “. . . It’s a heightened state of alert. Police are advising vigilance.”

All entrances and exits to each of the district’s 15 elementary school buildings, four junior highs and two high schools are being monitored, he said.

“Basically, it’s a semi-lockdown mode,” he said.

Weseman said Lawrence police are currently in contact with the building principals.

“We’ve got personnel dispatched everywhere,” he said. “We’re working with the police department as part of our plan for this kind of threat.”

The district recently installed security cameras that are accessible from the Internet to police and to school district administrators with security clearance.

“I can say we have video surveillance. And that’s 24 hours a day,” he said.

Weseman said he would keep the Journal-World informed through the morning.

Capt. Schuyler Bailey, of the Kansas University Public Safety Office, said at 8:45 a.m. that things were normal on campus and that nothing was being evacuated.

Matt Patterson at Bishop Seabury Academy released this note this morning:

“Dear Parents:

“I feel the need to inform all of you that I spoke with a police officer first thing this morning when I arrived at school. He informed me that the police had received a vague threat that Ãa schoolî in Lawrence and City Hall would both be bombed today. This is, he told me, the kind of threat that the police receive frequently this time of year, but because of recent events the police felt compelled to pass this threat along to schools, and now I am passing it along to you.

“The police officer will be patrolling the school grounds today as precautionary measure, and we will have at least one faculty member patrolling the parking lot at all times. Students will be allowed to contact parents after morning meeting, and they will be allowed to keep cell phones on throughout the day. As of this moment, no schools in Lawrence are closing because of the threat.

“Please be assured that we will do all in our power to make sure that students at Seabury are safe. We will discuss evacuation procedures as a precautionary measure.

“I will pass along more information as it becomes available. This kind of threat is not unusual, but we do need to take it seriously.

“Thanks for your understanding.”

¢ Steve Johnston, superintendent of Perry-Lecompton schools, said his district diverted the buses and students to another location, the service center, while they did a sweep of the building. Students and staff would not be allowed back into school until the buildings were certified as safe.

¢ Kristin Magette, communications coordinator for Eudora Public schools, they “received advice early this morning that there was an unspecific threat to Douglas County schools.” Principals and custodians swept ” all the buildings and didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

“Right now we are in a low-level lock down but regular learning is going on at all schools. We are ready to spring into action,” she said. “There is nothing out of the ordinary going on in the schools at this point other than the low-level lock down.”

¢ Police in Baldwin were making sweeps this morning of all schools. They have uncovered no problems, school officials said.

Police said there was no reason for panic because of the threats.

Baldwin students have not been evacuated from schools. And police are not suggesting that schools go on lock-down.

¢ Administrator Jeff Barclay said Veritas Christian School, 256 N. Mich., is taking the same precautions as the public schools. The school is on semi-lockdown. Barclay said they notified parents about the situation and told them that they could pick up their children. He said some students have been picked up. Barclay said the school day has been going smoothly.