Just a day after Sampson County court operations were shut down because of a bomb threat, students at Lakewood High School stood outside for close to an hour waiting for emergency responders to OK their return to the building after an unknown caller left a message threatening to blow up the school Tuesday.
It was not clear where the call came from, but school officials discovered the message on an administrator’s phone around 10:10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“It could possibly be a copycat,” said Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, referencing Monday’s courthouse threat, “but we feel reasonably sure that the (Lakewood High) call came from a kid. Right now, we are working to trace the call and find out who was behind it.”
Students were immediately evacuated and emergency personnel scanned the entire school campus for approximately an hour searching for any trace of an explosive device.
Nothing was found.
“As soon as I saw today’s front page (with the courthouse bomb threat), I had a feeling something like this was going to happen,” admitted Sampson County Schools superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker. “When something like that happens, typically, you get more of them. As soon as we heard, we had two representatives (from the Central Office) immediately go down and make sure everything was OK, and it was. The kids went back in school.”
Principal Monty Strickland said the caller on the message rambled before saying that multiple bombs were placed on the school campus and were going to go off. “You could hear laughing in the background, but then the caller cussed and hung up,” he explained. “Right after we heard it, we got the kids out of the school as quickly as we could. They were out about an hour, and everything was quickly back to normal.”
Student Resource Officer Sgt. Scott Hodges said within minutes after the call was discovered, Sampson County investigators, Sampson County EMS and local fire department officials were on scene.
“We scanned the building thoroughly,” he said. “We couldn’t find anything. Once it was cleared, the students were allowed back in. We heard the message, too, and no matter what, you have to take every precaution you can to protect everyone.”
In addition to the quick response from emergency officials, Strickland said he was pleased with the way his staff handled the incident, including getting a ConnectED message sent out to all Lakewood High parents.
“Once the call was discovered, we immediately followed procedure,” he said. “Although the message had laughing on it, we took it very seriously and evacuated all of the kids. As soon as we did that, a ConnectEd message was sent out to all of the parents.”
It was the third bomb threat in less than a month. On Wednesday, Sept. 26, a bomb threat was placed (in letter form) at two locations at the Mary Gran Nursing Center, located at 120 Southwood Drive, in Clinton.
Like the previous two threats, nothing was located at the nursing facility.
Although the Mary Gran threat is still being investigated, Monday’s call to the courthouse is believed to have originated from a pay phone in Warsaw, noted Thornton.
“We are still working that case, but it came from a pay phone,” he said. “We are currently in the process of tracing the Lakewood High School one, but I am confident we will be able to find out where it came from.”
Hodges confirmed that Tuesday afternoon. “That is what we are working on getting now, the trace,” he said. “We are waiting to see where this call originated from.”
Lenker is also confident investigators will find out who the perpetrator is.
“They are now tracking the phone and we reported everything they needed,” Lenker said. “We will continue to work with the Sheriff’s Office and the phone companies to try and figure out who was behind it.”
When that person is found they will be facing serious felony charges.
If you have any information on any of the cases, you are asked to call the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office at 910-592-4141.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.