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Two Chambersburg students questioned about bombings

Two Franklin County high schools evacuated during search

Two Franklin County high schools evacuated during search

September 26, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania State Police on Thursday searched and then impounded a pickup truck at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center and questioned at least two Chambersburg students about a series of recent bombings.

At about the same time, Mercersburg police and state troopers responded to a scrawled bomb threat on a restroom wall at James Buchanan High School.

Police were at Chambersburg Area Senior High School on Thursday to question students regarding recent incidents involving pipe bombs in the St. Thomas area, said Sylvia Rockwood, the school district's director of information services.

Police previously issued press releases regarding two incidents last Friday involving explosive devices, one used to damage a portable toilet at a farm and a pipe bomb that destroyed a mailbox. Chambersburg Superintendent Joseph Padasak said police informed him there had been at least one other incident Wednesday when a pipe bomb thrown from a vehicle at a jogger failed to go off.

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"There was a child interviewed at the high school with his parents. The child was not forthcoming, and he was taken into state police custody," Padasak said. Two other students who police wanted to question were not in school Thursday, and a fourth was at the career center, he said.

At the center, the police called in the Hazardous Device Team to conduct a search of the vehicle in the school's parking lot, and a robot was used to inspect the truck, Padasak said.

"They weren't too specific about what they found" in the truck, Padasak said. The student was questioned by police and released to the custody of his mother, Rockwood said.

The U.S. Postal Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also are investigating the incidents, Padasak said.

"We moved kids around to safe areas and we had a lockdown," Career Center Director James Duffey said. "The kids weren't permitted to leave those areas" until police were finished, he said.

Police dogs were used in the search of the vehicle as well as portions of the school's interior, Duffey said. Despite the disruption, school continued, he said.

Rockwood said police went to the center at about 11 a.m.; Duffey said the Hazardous Device Team arrived around noon. Students were dismissed at regular times, but school buses lined up along Loop Road and students were escorted across the school grounds to the road, Duffey said.

At about noon Thursday, a bomb threat was found scrawled on a girls bathroom wall at James Buchanan High School, Mercersburg Police Chief Larry Thomas said. About an hour later, students were evacuated to the stadium, he said.

"Bomb will go off at 1:45" was written in large blue lettering on the wall, Thomas said.

"We searched the school. They had the dogs out, too," Thomas said.

Borough and state police did not find any explosives, and students went from the stadium to their buses at the regular dismissal time, he said.

During the past school year, there were two similar incidents involving threats written on bathroom walls, Thomas said. A female student was charged with terroristic threats in one of the incidents.

After those bomb threats, students were made to sign in when they went to the bathroom, Thomas said.

"They'll probably have to go back to that," he said.

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