By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter
True: no one was hurt and no bombs have been found; false: making bomb threats is not a serious crime.
It’s actually a felony to make a bomb threat of any kind, whether called-in, emailed, snail mailed, written on the wall, whatever.
Over the past couple of months; the Okfuskee County Sheriff’s Office has had to deal with three such threats. None of them netted the discovery of any kind or explosive, but local law enforcement are forced to take seriously every threat — in the same way it’s a seemingly practical statement, “It’s better safe than sorry.”
Two of those three bomb threats were made at Graham-Dustin school district — both times the threat scrawled across the bathroom wall — with the most recent being just last week.
Before that, on January 24, came the first one. It, too, involved the threat being written on the wall of the boys’ bathroom.
The third threat was called-in to the County Clerk of the Okfuskee County Courthouse where the caller said, “This is a bomb threat … tell the judge.”
The order of the threats was the first to Graham-Dustin (Jan. 24), then the courthouse (March 26), before the last one to Graham-Dustin just last week.
When dealing with all three of these threats, the local responses of law enforcement was quick, professional and consistent — evacuate, notify, wait, in a nutshell.
Sheriff Jim Rasmussen said this is frustrating because it’s taxing on budgets for the agencies involved and the entity receiving the threat.
“With schools and or places like the courthouse, there usually isn’t ever an actual bomb, but we cannot take that chance,” he said. “We have to get everyone out of the place, notify the OHP (Oklahoma Highway Patrol) bomb squad and wait for their checking of and then clearance of the building before anymore business within the place can be conducted.”
“It is a loss of money and waste of time to have to go through all that, especially when there is no bomb or aren’t any explosives present,” he added.
With that said, he also made it clear that the waste of time and money are a much better alternative to not taking it seriously and the place or places actually blowing up or having explosives near or inside.
“I’d rather be safe and keep people safe, so we take threats such as these seriously,” he said.
The sheriff told the Okemah News Leader Tuesday that the investigations into the bomb threats at the courthouse and Graham-Dustin are ongoing until the perpetrators are caught.
“We are looking into some search warrants concerning the courthouse threat,” he said, searching for the best way to say it, due to its status as ‘ongoing.’ “The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is assisting with that case, and we have some suspects, but that’s all I can say currently.”
A similar statement was made while discussing the individual or individuals that made the threat last week and in January at Graham-Dustin.
The sheriff said they’ve interviewed at least 14 people, recognized a few possible suspects and have sent off handwriting samples for analysis from the wall in the bathroom and from suspects they’ve identified.
Since both threats at the school were written on the wall, it seemed fairly reasonable to deduct that it’s possible the perpetrator in both instances is the same.
That may or may not be the case, the sheriff said. Asked if the two statements on the wall were written by the same person or if they looked as if they were, he replied, “I’m not an expert or a handwriting analyst, so I’m not going to comment on that.”
“You know how it is … everyone has their own opinion when it comes to things like that, but those don’t matter unless they’re the opinions of an expert or someone qualified.”
As it stands, as of press time Tuesday, April 23, the investigations into all three bomb threat incidents are continuing and will remain ongoing until law enforcement finds who made the threats.
The punishment for such an enhanceable felony could include jail time or a hefty fine or both.