Updated Tue, Feb 18, 2014 5:17 pm
A bomb threat emptied the Perry County courthouse Tuesday, and after a three-hour search by the Sheriff’s Department with help from the Muskingum County K-9 unit, employees and staff members were allowed to re-enter the building by late afternoon.
The New Lexington Police Department received a call at 12:28 p.m. Tuesday about a bomb threat at the courthouse. Procedure called for the evacuation of all personnel to a nearby county facility. First responders from across the county were soon on the scene; a K-9 unit from the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Department that specializes in detecting explosives was also called to the courthouse.
A preliminary search by the K-9 turned up no results; Perry County Sheriff William R. Barker requested a more thorough search, going back into the building with the dog to look inside each room.
“It’s my job as sheriff is to make sure we get the people out of there and to a secure location where we think they can be safe,” Barker said. “We did a general search first to areas where a normal citizen has access because those would be the easiest areas to leave something suspicious. I wasn’t comfortable with just the common area because this was a pretty heavy court day, so we went back and searched the office areas. The dog did not detect anything in those areas and we felt comfortable in allowing workers back in those areas. We asked them to be aware of any suspicious packages. ... It takes a lot of time, but on the other hand, it’s a measure that needs to happen.”
Barker was out of the county when the initial call was made. He arrived on the scene soon before the K-9 unit completed its first search of the facility. “I’m pleased with the way our deputies, first responders and Brad Agriesti out of County Court did a good job with the evacuation,” Barker said.
It was more than three hours from the time the first call came in to the New Lexington Police Department until officials felt confident enough to allow personnel back into the courthouse.
“Once word got out, all parties that are supposed to come together during a situation like this followed the procedures they are supposed to follow and were fast-acting,” said county commissioner, Jim O’Brien.
The incident remains under investigation.