Phoned-in bomb threat closes Carroll courthouse Bomb squad called in after dogs react to briefcase found in annex basement

October 15, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County courthouse was shut down for more than three hours yesterday after someone called a courthouse clerk to say a bomb would go off, authorities said.

Three police dogs trained to detect explosives were brought in to search the building, as well as the Courthouse Annex on North Court Street, which houses the criminal and civil offices of the circuit and district courts and the county school board.

Both buildings were evacuated because the caller did not say which building contained the bomb, said Sgt. Richard Bader, chief of court security for the Carroll County Sheriff's Department.

"After everyone was safely out within three or four minutes, the state fire marshal was called," Bader said.

Assisted by police dogs from the Westminster Police Department and the sheriff's office, the buildings were searched for more than 30 minutes before one of the dogs reacted to a briefcase, which was sitting in the land records section in the basement of the court annex, Bader said.

The other dogs were brought to that area and also reacted positively to the briefcase, which belongs to a courthouse employee, he said.

A deputy state fire marshal called for the bomb squad about 2: 45 p.m.

Police and sheriff's deputies set up roadblocks and prevented hundreds of workers and people having business in both court buildings from getting too close.

"No explosive device was found, and we do not know why all three dogs alerted positively to it," said Bader.

The owner of the case, who had left the area for the day, will be questioned [today], he said.

Bader declined to identify the owner of the briefcase, or to say what was inside.

Some odors and certain types of plastics can make the dogs react, according to bomb squad technicians.

"Our investigation is continuing," Bader said. "We have taken some statements and will continue tracking the source of the call," he said.

Circuit Judges Raymond E. Beck Sr. and Luke K. Burns Jr. resumed their afternoon dockets as prosecutors, lawyers, defendants and witnesses returned about 4: 45 p.m.

Some District Court and Board of Education employees returned to retrieve personal belongings before going home, while others apparently had left for the day.

A bomb threat cleared the courthouses in February, but jurors who had begun to deliberate in a child abuse case were evacuated to a nearby church, where the case was continued.

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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