Bomb threat evacuates BFHS ... again
October 23, 2012
For the third time in as many years, a terse,
hand written threat in a Bonners Ferry High
School restroom indicating a bomb forced
evacuation of the building and an all-out
response by emergency personnel this morning.
Unlike such evacuations in the past, however,
students, presumptively including the one who
scrawled the warning, didn't get an
unanticipated day out of school.
Instead, the more than 400 students spent the
biggest part of their day locked down in the gym
at the middle school, nearly all their bags and
belongings gone through as part of the search
for a potential explosive device.
"It was stupid," one student said. "They went
through everything, even cut an inch out of my
deodorant. For lunch we had a peanut butter and
jelly sandwich and a banana. It totally sucked!"
And while the students were locked down, worried
parents lit up the phone lines and social media
to try to learn what was going on.
The threat was found almost as soon as students
arrived for classes this morning, hand-written
on a stall in one of the girl's restrooms.
"Bom 3:30," it read, the word "bomb" misspelled.
At 9:04 a.m., the entire school was evacuated,
teachers and students sent to the middle school
gym. Simultaneously, a full emergency response
was being put into place, with the Bonners Ferry
Police Department taking charge.
Assistant Police Chief Joel Minor, who was
scheduled to work this evening, was called in to
take charge, as Police Chief Steve Benkula was
out of town.
"Yeah, it makes for a pretty long day," Minor
said this afternoon, getting ready to begin his
The Bonners Ferry Fire Department had a full
response, with fire apparatus set up all the way
around the building. Ambulance crews were
on-scene and prepared for the worst. Boundary
County Emergency Management director Dave Kramer
was soon on scene with incident commander Bob
Graham, who took the reins from Minor.
Boise Comm was activated, bringing state
emergency responders to stand by.
"We can't afford to take these incidents
lightly," Minor said, "and the response to a
threat like this is a major event.
Initially, the building and grounds, to include
student lockers and personal effects, were hand
searched by city police officers, sheriff's
deputies and two U.S Customs and Border Patrol
agents. Even though that search found nothing,
the building wasn't declared safe until after a
team of U.S. Marshals arrived from Spokane
shortly after noon with a specially trained bomb
Only after they went over the entire school
without finding any explosives shortly after 2
p.m. were students allowed to return to their
According to Minor, the threat was likely
written this morning just before classes got
"We talked to the janitors who cleaned last
night," he said, "and none of them saw it."
The culprit is suspected to be a student who
likely thought it would be pretty cool to get a
free day off, but, thanks to new district
policies put in place after the last such
threat, which was nearly identical but came
during finals, students instead spent an
uncomfortable day in a gym.
Also, the odds of finding who's responsible are
better this year as video cameras now cover the
hallways, including the entrances to restrooms.
"We're going through the tapes, identifying
everyone who entered that restroom and we'll be
talking to each of them," said district school
superintendent Dick Conley. "It's likely that
whoever did it thinks it was just a funny prank,
but this is extremely serious. We hope that
parents will talk to their kids to let them know
that this type action is not acceptable, and
that if anyone knows anything, they'll let us
know. They've gotten away with it before, but
it's time to put a stop to this once and for
Thanks to the threat, high school students will
be called to a mandatory assembly on Wednesday
to learn exactly how serious.
Not acceptable, indeed. According to both Minor
and Conley, what happened today at Bonners Ferry
High School could be classed ... and prosecuted
... as an act of terrorism, invoking severe
federal statutes in addition to state charges.
And there needn't be a bomb, either. According
to Minor, simply making a false report of a bomb
in a public place is a federal offense that
could bring up to five years in prison.
In addition to the stiff statutory penalties,
the parents of the guilty student could be
charged the costs of the emergency response,
which could easily exceed $10,000.
"As a parent, can you imagine getting that
call?" he asked. "It's so hard to get through to
whoever is doing this just how serious it is."
According to Minor, the best bet for whoever did
this would be to come forward, admit they made a
mistake and accept responsibility for their
"If that happened, I can see where it would be
to their advantage," he said.
"If we have to conduct a full investigation to
learn who did this, I'm sure the prosecution
will insist on bringing down the full force of
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