Seven buildings in Lawton were evacuated Tuesday morning after a Comanche County employee received a third party phone call advising of a bomb threat made toward the courthouse. Officials say they received five bomb threats and narrowed the evacuations to seven buildings. Lawton Police say a male placed a phone call to a local business in Lawton and said bomb threats were made for the YMCA, the courthouse, a bank and Eisenhower.
Since there are three schools with Eisenhower in their names, all three schools (the elementary, junior high and high schools) were evacuated. Lawton Public Schools says a bomb sweep was made at all three schools and nothing was found. Students, faculty and staff were all allowed back in school and lessons continued as they normally would.
7News was there moments after people had evacuated the downtown buildings. The Federal Building was searched by U.S. Marshalls, Sheriff's Deputies and the Lawton Police bomb detecting dogs. After the search of the Comanche County Courthouse, teams determined that there were no bombs located inside the building and the courthouse reopened for business as usual.
"Obviously it was a hoax but you can't take a chance and the safety of our citizens and employees are a number one concern," said Police Chief Ronnie Smith. "Things like this are sometimes done as diversionary tactics while other crimes are committed and everyone is tied up on this," he said. But that wasn't the case this time. There were patrols all throughout the city that were prepared for a situation like this.
A false bomb threat is not just a simple prank. There could be a felony charge involved if a judge so decides. Authorities can sometimes trace the call using caller ID or phone call record searches depending on where the call comes from and law enforcement says fines will be stiff for a phony call like this. "Its not funny, there very serious and we take them very seriously," says Smith.
An Oklahoma statute stipulates that if felony charges are brought, the person responsible could spend no less than three years, but up to ten years for each threat made. If someone were to be injured during evacuation from a bomb threat, the suspect could also face seven years to life in prison.