Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said Tuesday that the bomb threat made at the local Kmart on Aug. 29 could be connected to a string of bomb threats being investigated by the FBI. “It looks like it was related to other incidences in the country at this time,” he said. Szudera made the comment during a meeting of the Hill C o u n t y L o c a l E m e r g e n c y P l a n n i n g Committee. The committee, which works to plan and coordinate what actions would be taken with various agencies in the county if an emergency occurred, asked Szudera to recount what actions were taken in response to the threat. Szudera was the incident commander during the bomb threat. One of Szudera’s comments was that he does not have enough personnel to handle a major occurrence. “I would estimate a minimum of 15 more people, that’s what it would take to handle this kind of incident,” he said, adding that he would probably have to call for assistance from neighboring counties to get that Help. Szudera told the committee that he has discovered since the incident occurred that much of the threat was similar to other calls made to stores around the country, including a demand for money from the store being made. The FBI is investigating the connection to those bomb threats, he said. He said it appears that the call was made from out of the state, possibly out of the country. The FBI is also investigating whether the call could be related to an earlier call to the Havre Kmart involving a money transfer, he said. The day of the incident and in the next few days following it, Szudera said he was not aware of any requests for money or orders made during the bomb threat except to keep law enforcement officers away from the building. He said today that as he has continued investigating since the incident, people involved have given him more details Szudera said during Tuesday’s meeting that a Kmart employee made a 911 call at 9:24 a.m. on Aug. 29 in which the employee said a caller had threatened to blow up a bomb in the store, and said that law enforcement officials had to stay at least 40 feet away from the store or the bomb would be detonated. The person making the bomb threat told the store employee he was watching everyone in the store, Szudera said, including telling the employee he could see an elderly man trying to go to the restroom in the front of the store when the man started to walk in that direction. Szudera said he found out after he had set up a staging area at the USDA Service Center parking lot east of Kmart that the store assistant manager had gathered all employees and customers at the front of the store and locked the doors, not allowing anyone to leave. Szudera said he then ordered the store evacuated. After the LEPC meeting, Szudera said he did not know whether the person making the bomb threat had ordered the people to be kept in the store. During the meeting Tuesday, Szudera said he established the staging area, keeping all uniformed law enforcement officers there, then established a perimeter around the store with out-ofuniform personnel. Uniformed officers stayed away from the building and the Kmart parking lot because of the threat to detonate the bomb, he said. The Havre Police Department, Havre Fire Department and the Montana Highway Patrol also responded to the scene. After about a half-hour, he said, he and Undersheriff Don Brostrom and two deputies entered the store to search for unwanted people and any explosive devices, he said. Nothing out of the ordinary was discovered after an extensive search including using a dog trained to detect drugs and people. At about 12 p.m. he turned the store back over to the Kmart management, and the store reopened at about 12:30 p.m. Riki Handstede of Northern Montana Hospital, who has been hired to start as the Hill County director of nursing on Sept. 25, said establishing a procedure to contact the hospital when something like the bomb threat occurs would be helpful. She said the hospital was notified, but by several people from different entities responding to the scene rather than by the law enforcement dispatcher or the incident commander. “It took quite a while for the information to come out to our chief officer,” Handstede said. The group agreed that a procedure should be put in place, by the hospital and by the emergency service entities in the area, that an official contact should be made directly to the hospital administration when a major occurrence like the bomb threat happens.