Bomb threat forces evacuation of courthouse
A bomb threat forced the closing of the McIntosh County Courthouse last week.
However, a rumor of a bomb at Checotah High School on the same day was unfounded.
“There was a minor incident that was blown out of proportion,” said a school spokesman.
In Eufaula, The McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department 911 Center received a report from an unidentified caller at about 8 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30, who said an explosive device had been placed in the courthouse, according to District Attorney Investigator Kevin Branscum.
The suspect said the bomb was due to explode in two hours.
The building was quickly evacuated by the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department, Eufaula Police Department, ABLE Commission and District Attorney’s Office.
With the assistance of McIntosh Emergency Management, the City of Eufaula and the Eufaula Fire Department, all streets around the courthouse were blocked off.
The OHP Bomb Squad was notified and the unit from Tulsa arrived a short time later with a bomb-sniffing dog.
“The OHP arrived on the scene and cleared the building and surrounding area at 11:30 a.m.,” Branscum said. “During this time no device or signs of an explosive device was located at the courthouse resumed normal business.”
During the shutdown the National Guard Armory was used as a temporary courthouse, where Associate District Judge Brendon Bridges held court.
Those who were scheduled for court but did not attend because of the closing were urged to call the court clerk’s office for further instructions.
There was speculation among some law enforcement officers that the threat was made because the suspect had a court date on the day the call was made and he didn’t want to go to jail.
Meanwhile, investigators are looking for the suspect.
A similar bomb threat was made in August, 2015, when a suspect called the court clerk’s office and said there was a bomb hidden in the courthouse.
The reason for the 2015 call was that one of two suspects who eventually were arrested was the husband of a woman who was to appear in drug court on the day of the call and may have been on her way to jail for missing several other court dates.
The first person arrested in the four-year-old case was Justin Todd LaCrosse, 39, a homeless man living in a tent in Haskell.
LaCross eventually pled guilty to making a telephone threat and was sentenced to six years in prison, with the first year spent in the county jail and the remaining five years suspended.
He allegedly made the call at the request of Luther Edwin Johnson Jr., 53, of Haskell.
Johnson was arrested on April 8, 2016, about eight months after the courthouse was evacuated because of the bomb threat.
According to investigators, it was Johnson’s wife who had a drug court date on the day of the call made by LaCross.
Johnson eventually pled no contest to making a telephone bomb threat and was given a two-year suspended sentence.
The courthouse was the target of another threat earlier this year.
Anthony Shane Hammer, 36, was arrested in Cherokee County on Aug. 5 and charged with threatening to shoot up the McIntosh County Courthouse.
The alleged threats were made on Facebook.
Following a preliminary hearing on Oct. 8, Hammer was ordered to stand trial on a charge of planning/conspiring/endeavoring to perform an act of violence.
He was to appear for arraignment in district court on Nov. 6 and to formally enter a plea to the charge.