30 bomb threats: Blount County Courthouse part of statewide bomb scare
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Blount County Courthouse closed Tuesday because of a statewide bomb scare. In all, 30 Tennessee counties received false bomb threats to courthouses or other government buildings, forcing evacuations while authorities searched for bombs.
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said employees were sent home for the day after the courthouse closed while the threat was investigated. It took several hours for a bomb dog to be brought from Pigeon Forge to inspect the building.
“Rather than have people standing out in this weather and waiting for that amount of time, we went ahead and shut the courthouse down,” he said.
Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokeswoman Dalya Qualls said no explosives were found and no arrests have been made.
A spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the threats were made in phone calls to county clerk offices.
In Memphis, police said an unknown woman called and said she had information that someone was going to blow up three buildings in the city, including the federal building and a post office.
Tennessee is the fourth state to deal with similar bomb hoaxes. One targeted 28 courthouses in Oregon and similar threats were reported in Nebraska and Washington this month.
Seven threats were in West Tennessee, four in Middle Tennessee and 13 in East Tennessee, said state Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt.
The threats to courthouses in Ashland City and Clinton were made by men.
“It was just a man’s voice saying simply if this is the Cheatham County Courthouse you’re about to be blown up, and it startled me. So I just said I’m sorry. I tried to get him to repeat himself and that’s when it just cut off and I thought ‘Oh my,”’ Cheatham County deputy clerk Rebecca Nicholson told WTVF-TV.
Anderson County Clerk Jeff Cole told The Knoxville News Sentinel that a man’s voice simply said “There’s a bomb in the building” and hung up.
The FBI is working closely with state authorities and will pursue federal charges if necessary, said Joel Siscovic, the bureau’s spokesman in Memphis.
The federal building in Memphis houses the federal court and offices for the Department of Justice, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen. It was cleared around 9 a.m. for a couple of hours while authorities checked it.
Police temporarily blocked a trolley line that ran by the federal building in Memphis and brought in a dog to search the building before letting people return around 11 a.m.
Among the counties that received threats were: Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Chester and Shelby in West Tennessee; Bedford, Cannon, Cheatham, Clay, Franklin and Giles in Middle Tennessee; and Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cumberland, Fentress, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton and Hancock in East Tennessee.