Mayor warns bomb callers

Police report increase in threats after hijackings

`Nothing short of treason'

September 14, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley has compared those who make bomb threats to traitors, and announced that police will begin cracking down on the hoaxes, which have increased in the past few days.

"Bomb threats at this point in our history are nothing short of treason," O'Malley said yesterday during a news conference at police headquarters.

The threats have come after hundreds -- and possibly thousands -- of people were killed when terrorists hijacked four airliners Tuesday and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

Baltimore police reported more than 60 bomb threats at schools, courthouses, police headquarters, colleges and businesses yesterday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, city police received 19 bomb threats. Police said they usually receive about a dozen bomb threats a day.

Anne Arundel and Howard County police said they have not received any bomb threats in the past two days. Carroll County received three yesterday, and Baltimore County police could not say late yesterday afternoon whether they had received any.

O'Malley said he was taking the threats "very, very seriously." He urged those who receive them to hang up and immediately dial *57 (star 57). Dialing *57 will enable the police to trace the call, police said. Then the recipient should dial 911 and report the threatening call to police.

City Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris also angrily denounced the calls, saying they take valuable resources away from people who might need them.

"This isn't funny," Norris said. "I'm a little surprised at the stupidity" of the callers.

The maximum sentence for a bomb threat is 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

O'Malley and Norris announced the arrest of a 26-year-old East Baltimore man in connection with a threat received Wednesday.

Michael Stafford of the 600 block of N. Glover St. was charged with making an arson threat, misusing a telephone and making a false statement about a destructive device. He was being held last night at the Central Booking and Intake Facility pending a hearing before a District Court commissioner.

Police said a man called the city's 911 center at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday and told dispatchers that he "is the terrorist bomber and that he is going to kill us."

Authorities tracked the 911 call to a cellular phone and questioned the phone's owner, who told detectives that Stafford grabbed the phone from him while they were sitting at a city bus stop, police said.

Stafford then called the 911 center, police said.

Stafford was arrested about 6:30 a.m. yesterday in the 100 block of N. Luzerne Ave. by detectives in the Warrant Apprehension Task Force, police said.

In another threat case that forced the evacuation of two prominent state facilities, a Southwest Baltimore man was ordered held at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for evaluation after a hearing Wednesday in Baltimore District Court.

The man is accused of telling state officials by telephone shortly after the terrorist strikes in New York and at the Pentagon that the World Trade Center in Baltimore and the State House complex in Annapolis were terrorist targets.

Quentin Leroy Johnson, 22, was arrested Tuesday on charges of causing "a false investigation." State officials said they received "credible" information shortly after the terrorist attacks that the World Trade Center and State House were targets. They evacuated both facilities.

Yesterday, a bomb threat received by Carroll County 911 dispatchers at 6:48 a.m. forced the evacuation of the County Office Building, police said. The same caller said he also had planted a bomb in the County Courthouse Annex and the Carroll County General Hospital, which were not evacuated, officials said.

No bombs were found, police said.

North Center Street in front of the Carroll County building was closed from Route 140 to Willis Street until almost 9 a.m., police said. While the county building has not been the target of recent threats, police said, the courthouse had two last year.

Sun staff writers Sheridan Lyons and Laurie Willis contributed to this article.

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