Bomb threats evacuate 30 Tennessee courthouses

8:06 PM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
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Tuesday a series of bomb threats were directed at government buildings counties across Tennessee.  The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said as of 5 p.m. it had confirmed bomb threats in 30 counties, mainly at courthouses.

Fourteen of those threats were received at courthouses in East Tennessee.  Threats were made by telephone to court clerk offices.

All locations that received bomb threats were checked and no explosive devices were found.

*Reporter's note:  WBIR normally does not report on bomb threats.  An exception was made in this case because of the unusual and widespread nature of the threats that made such a large impact on the legal system.

Tuesday started in typical fashion at the Campbell County Courthouse in Jacksboro.  The day took an unusual turn just before 11:00 a.m.

"I was sitting in the courtroom and the judge had been coming in and out of his stand.  I thought this was kind of strange," said Randy Partin of LaFollette.  "Moments later he [the judge] came outside and said everyone needs to leave in a calm and orderly fashion. There has been a bomb threat called in.  They said just wait in your car anywhere off the premises so that any falling debris if there was a bomb wouldn't affect us."

"We immediately evacuated the courthouse," said Robbie Goins, Campbell County Sheriff.  "We brought some dogs in from Roane County and did a sweep of the building. No bombs or threats were found.  Several counties in Tennessee had this happen."

Those scenes of bomb threats, evacuations, and bomb-sniffing dogs took place in 29 other counties across Tennessee.  That includes Blount County and Anderson County where court was postponed for about an hour.  Threats also reached several courthouses in Middle Tennessee and the federal building in Memphis.

"In all of my years in office, nothing like this has ever happened.  This is a different situation, I think.  If it would have been just isolated to our county, we'd be looking into it totally different than we are now. We're all trying to work together and come up with any information," said Goins.

No bombs were found, but the threats put a dent in court schedules.  Campbell County's courthouse remained closed until 2:00 p.m.

"We had a full docket today. It has bumped some cases and we'll have to reassign or pick a different date," said Goins.  "Overall, it went smoothly. We're thankful nobody got hurt and no devices have been found."

Some law enforcement officials told 10News whoever made the threatening phone calls could potentially face charges in every county that received a bomb threat.  There is also a possibility of federal criminal charges for violating anti-terrorism laws.  Federal charges could also stem from the bomb threat made at the federal building in Memphis.

A similar bomb threat hoax targeted 28 courthouses in Oregon last week.

Below is a list of the 30 Tennessee counties where court clerks received bomb threats Tuesday according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

East Tennessee counties: 14

  • Anderson
  • Bledsoe
  • Blount
  • Bradley
  • Campbell
  • Carter
  • Claiborne
  • Cumberland
  • Fentress
  • Grainger
  • Greene
  • Hamblen
  • Hamilton
  • Hancock

West Tennessee counties: 9

  • Benton
  • Carroll
  • Chester
  • Crockett
  • Decatur
  • Gibson
  • Hardeman
  • Hardin
  • Shelby

Middle Tennessee counties: 7

  • Bedford
  • Cannon
  • Cheatham
  • Clay
  • Franklin
  • Giles
  • Grundy

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