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Bomb threat prompts two-hour search of courthouse, annex

Patrol dogs were called to the Washington County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon as a bomb threat was called in. After a search, it was found to be a non-credible threat. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

A bomb threat called into the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday afternoon was deemed non-credible after a two-hour search of the courthouse and annex.

Chief Deputy Mark Warden said dispatch received a call at 1:46 p.m. Thursday.

“A male caller heard two people talking about a blast at 205 Putnam St.,” Warden said. “They asked to clarify and he said an explosion. As a result, they notified the courthouse and immediately started protocol for evacuation.”

K-9 officers were called in and conducted a perimeter check with assistance from a bomb dog from Ohio University. Warden noted there is a reciprocal agreement with OU.

“Muskingum County was on their way but we called them back,” Warden said.

Employees of the county’s maintenance and IT departments stand outside the Washington County Courthouse after a bomb threat Thursday caused a building evacuation. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

An investigation is ongoing to identify the caller.

Warden said protocol is that employees move across Putnam Street to an area down the street. These are rare incidents, but there are protocols set up just in case.

“The problem is we had people walking up and down the street who didn’t know about the threat, so we had a barricade on Putnam Street to keep them out,” he remarked.

Sheriff Larry Mincks deemed the courthouse clear around 3:30 p.m.

While some employees went back to work, others were advised to go home for the day.

Washington County Prosecutor Nicole Coil said it disrupted their work schedule, but if it were to take the three hours to determine if it were a credible threat, her employees should head home.

“We were in the parking lot for a while,” she said. “They shut off Putnam Street and Sheriff Mincks said we might as well send employees home and they wouldn’t get back in time to work.”

If a threat comes in to the sheriff’s office that affects courthouse employees, an announcement is broadcast through the speakers on their phones, Coil said. It is more efficient than calling individual offices.

There wasn’t much on the dockets for the common pleas courts, but the juvenile court was ready for a busy afternoon.

“I had six hearings between 2 and 3:30 p.m.,” said Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Williams. “The attorneys, I know who will appear, but I don’t know who the mom and dad are. They were probably standing around like we were, wondering what was going on.”

He said those hearings will need to be rescheduled, although they don’t like to move the children services cases any more than necessary.

He said after the threat was deemed non-credible, he went back into his offices to lock up and turn out the lights.

“The sheriff’s office did a good job,” he said. “We get false smoke alarms, as this is an older building, but this one, the sheriff’s office said ‘bomb threat, get out’. Luckily, no one was hurt and it was not credible.”

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