Bomb threat closes courthouse square

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2005

The caller said it would detonate at 2 p.m.

With those words, the Butler County Courthouse and several offices and businesses around the historic building remained closed for approximately three hours Friday as officials searched the building for the device.

Sheriff Diane Harris said Friday after everything settled down Mattie Gomillion in the Circuit Clerk’s second floor office took the initial call from the would-be bomber.

&uot;The call came in at 10:35 a.m.,&uot; Harris said.

&uot;She then called my office and spoke to Denise Watson, my clerk, who then called me.

I told Denise to call 911 and the police and fire departments were dispatched.&uot;

Harris said before leaving the building she and Investigator Kenneth Hadley walked through the building.

&uot;We went ahead and went through the building, checking for any strange items,&uot; she said.

&uot;Basically, we were looking for something that wasn’t supposed to be there.&uot;

She said the district attorney’s office called the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and Greenville Fire Chief Mike Phillips called the Montgomery Police Department.

MPD send its bomb squad to Greenville to also search the building.

The parking lots and buildings around the courthouse were also emptied.

Court Square Caf\u00E9 was already filled with lunchtime diners.

All that came to a halt as police officers stopped both vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic from approaching the buildings.

Due to a holiday, the courthouse will be closed on Monday, so employees got an impromptu four-day weekend.

Many people were questioning why the offices around the courthouse were closed, but Lt. Garry Martin of the Greenville Police Department summed it up.

&uot;With all of the threat of terrorism we’ve had in the last few years,’ he said, &uot;we’re not taking any chances.&uot;

The events of the courthouse also reached to the area schools that went into lockdown modes.

This simply means that teachers were to keep their students in the classrooms.

Recess and breaks were canceled due to the lockdown for about two hours.

According to Sheriff Harris, Lt. Randy Courtney of the Greenville Police Department is investigating the prank call.

Under the new Homeland Security Act, anyone caught making a bomb threat or having made a bomb threat faces felony charges.

&uot;This is not a joking matter and in these times, the penalties are high,&uot; Harris said.

The Department of Homeland Security suggests that if receive a bomb threat, take the following steps:

n get as much information from the caller as possible.

n keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said.

N notify the police and the building management.

N do not touch any suspicious packages.

N clear the area around the suspicious package and notify the police immediately.

N evacuate the building and avoid standing in front of windows or other potentially hazardous areas.

N do not restrict sidewalk or streets to be used by emergency officials.

Remember to call 911!

News Editor Chris Henley contributed to this report.