Boy, 17, charged in W.Va. bomb threat

May 10, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A 17-year-old Martinsburg High School senior was charged Monday with making a false bomb threat that forced the evacuation of 25 schools across Berkeley County on Friday afternoon.

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The Jefferson County teenager was arrested about 1:20 p.m. Monday after Martinsburg High School Principal Rick Deuell told police some students had overheard the boy talking about the bomb threat, said Martinsburg City Police Detective Kevin Miller.

Deuell called the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, which relayed the information to Martinsburg City Police, Miller said.

About 13,000 students were sent home early Friday after someone called the Berkeley County Board of Education and said a bomb would go off in one of the schools later in the day.

Police, firefighters and school personnel checked all of the schools, but no explosives were found.

The threat angered many parents in a community already trying to cope with rising anxieties caused by the April 20 killings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.


Friday's bomb threat prompted an emergency town meeting at a Martinsburg park where about 200 people talked about their fears of school violence and searched for solutions.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon, who drew criticism from some parents for the district's handling of the bomb evacuations, could not be reached for comment on Monday's arrest.

The name of the teenager charged with phoning in the bomb threat was withheld by police because he is a juvenile.

The boy was released to his parents Monday afternoon. Miller said a Berkeley County Magistrate will decide today if the he should be held in a juvenile detention facility.

Falsely reporting a bomb threat to a school is a misdemeanor. Conviction as an adult, possible for a 17-year-old, carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail, Miller said.

No decision has been made on whether to try the teen as an adult.

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