No bomb found after courthouse is evacuated

August 10, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

More than 200 people were evacuated from the District Court building in Ellicott City for the second time in two months yesterday because of a bomb scare.

No one was injured and no bomb was found.

State police said they were told of a bomb at 1:25 p.m. and evacuated the building 10 minutes later.

Four specially trained dogs -- three from the state police and one from the county sheriff's office -- searched the building for an hour and 20 minutes but found nothing, police said.

"There was no panic or anything," said Tom Jordan, a hot dog vendor who maintains a stand at the entrance to the courthouse. "You know, it's happened before."

Like everyone else, Mr. Jordan was told to leave his equipment and move behind "emergency" signs about 100 yards from the building.

As the search for the bomb continued, police moved the crowd of between 200 and 300 people farther from the building and into the street.

"You can't take a chance," said Sheriff Michael A. Chiuchiolo. "There are a lot of incidents all over the country. You are dealing with massive numbers of people on a busy court day -- just evacuating hundreds of people is a pretty big job."

Most of the evacuees -- employees within the building and people in traffic court -- seemed more concerned about an 80-minute break "upsetting the rhythm of the day" than about personal safety, Mr. Jordan said.

"This is the third or fourth time this has happened" in the year that he has worked at the courthouse, Mr. Jordan said, "so most people -- attorneys especially -- were conducting business on the lawn."

Mr. Jordan was not one of them. He "couldn't make a nickel," he said, because he was forced to abandon his stand at 1:30 p.m.

"All I could do was look at it," he said. "After awhile, I began to get hungry myself. You know it's bad when the hot dog vendor gets hungry. Next time, I'm going to unplug my freezer and take it to the bottom of the hill" to sell some food.

Courthouse bomb scares are happening with increasing frequency in this area. Howard County Deputy Sheriff Ron Esworthy, who responded to yesterday with his bomb-sniffing dog Rebel, are finding it an almost monthly occurrence.

In late May, Sergeant Esworthy and Rebel were asked to help search the Carroll County courthouse. In that instance, a female caller said a bomb had been planted on each of the three floors in the courthouse and they were set to go off between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

A second threat -- believed to have come from the same woman -- was called in from a pay phone at a Westminster shopping center.

When the buildings reopened after a two-hour search, the Westminster District Court received a third call from a woman who shouted, "I told you there was a bomb in the building! Now get out!"

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