Wasco and Sherman counties were among those hit by a rash of bomb threats against county courthouses Monday afternoon, Nov. 19.
The Oregon State Police (OSP) reported receiving information about another 17 courthouse threats, and one against the Oregon Public Service Building in Salem, received by phone Monday. These threats appear to be similar to multiple reports received Nov. 15 in Washington state (about eight reports) and Nov. 2 (about nine reports) in Nebraska, which were all unfounded.
The threats began around 2:30 p.m. and continued for about an hour.
“As this whole thing started evolving, we got trickles of information from other courthouses,” said Lane Magill, Wasco County undersheriff. “We began to get suspicious.”
Sherman County’s threat was called in about 2:35 or 2:40 p.m., according to Rita Wilson, Sherman County deputy clerk, who took the call. Wasco County’s followed at about 2:50 p.m., according to Magill. Both came in to the clerk’s office and followed the same basic format.
“(The call) was from a male caller advising that he basically has multiple bombs inside the courthouse and that this is not a bomb threat but a bomb promise and we’ve got 25 minutes, and he hangs up,” Magill said.
Both courthouses were immediately evacuated. County sheriff’s officers, which are responsible for courthouse security, waited a period of time, then went in and searched the building for explosives.
“Everything was clear,” Magill said.
He was uncertain about any coordinated investigation into the threats or any possible motivation.
“Everybody talks about what’s the motivation, what’s the reasoning,” he said. “There are hundreds of scenarios.”
The Dalles city police helped with the local investigation.
“It takes up a tremendous amount of time and resources — us, OSP, the city of The Dalles, contractors he have working here who couldn’t work,” Magill said. “It’s very disruptive. We’d like to find out who did this.”
The following other locations confirmed with OSP receiving similar threats: Crook County, Baker County, Curry County, Benton County, Jefferson County, Tillamook County, Deschutes County, Morrow County, Grant County, Malheur County, Wallowa County, Umatilla County, Marion County, Baker County, Klamath County, Lake County, Union County.
Some of the locations reported evacuations while responding law enforcement personnel conduct area checks for any suspicious objects. None of the reports have confirmed finding any suspicious objects. Other locations did not evacuated occupants but also conducting area checks.
The Oregon Public Service Building in Salem received a similar report at approximately 3 p.m. The building, which also houses the OSP General Headquarters office, was evacuated and allowed employees back in to their work locations at about 4 p.m. after an area check was completed.
OSP Hazardous Device technicians did not responded to any locations at this time because of no confirmed findings.
Hood River County Courthouse did not receive a threat, according to the Hood River County Sheriff’s office.