Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2007

City, school district react to bomb scare

April 26, 2007

Eudora USD 491 School District officials conducted an early morning sweep and a "light lockdown" April 19 in response to an unspecified bomb threat called in to the Douglas County Dispatch, Superintendent Marty Kobza said.

The district took action after learning the threat was directed toward an unspecified city hall and school, Kobza said.

"Anytime that we are in this situation the students' safety is always our priority and we are taking every course we can without trying to create panic among anyone," Kobza said Thursday morning. "It's just a typical safety process to make sure everything is as safe as possible, but again, we're walking through making sure everything is as normal as it can be."

After being notified of the threat, the district sent multiple people to comb through each of the district's buildings to search for anything out of the ordinary, district communications director Kristin Magette said. As of 9:45 a.m., the exterior doors of district buildings were locked but classes were proceeding as normal, Magette said.

To inform parents, Kobza left a taped message on the phones of parents listed on the district's phone broadcast system, assuring them he was confident all the necessary safety measures were in place to ensure a productive learning environment.

The Eudora City Police Department informed both the school district and city employees of the threat, Sergeant Greg Neis said. Officers assisted in the school search and searched the Eudora City Hall, but found nothing suspicious, he said.

As of Thursday morning, the city was conducting business as normal, Neis said.

"As far as I am concerned, there is not a whole lot to be worked up about," he said. "But it is another reminder to be more vigilant of what's going on."

The district officially called an all-clear later Thursday afternoon.

"Thank you for your patience today as we have made every effort to balance the well-being of our students with the preservation of their normal routine," Kobza said as part of another taped message sent by the district's phone broadcast system.

Lawrence police arrested Michael E. Parker, 46, last Thursday in connection with the threats.

Police have said they do not believe the threats were related to shootings last week on the Virginia Tech campus. Lawrence city leaders have said the city denied an insurance claim recently that Parker had made alleging he tripped on a loose brick downtown and injured his shoulder.

Prosecutors charged Parker on Friday with three counts of making an aggravated criminal threat. He made a brief appearance in court Tuesday, however Judge Stephen Six moved his court appearance to May 1 so his appointed attorney, Jim George, could attend. Defense attorney J.C. Gilroy stood in for George at the first appearance.

Even though police said the threat wasn't directed at any specific school, Parker is also charged with threatening Children's Learning Center and Bishop Seabury Academy, both in Lawrence, and John Dewey Learning Academy in Lecompton.

State law defines the crime of "aggravated criminal threat" as a threat that causes the evacuation of a public building or assembly place.

Parker remains in the Douglas County Jail on $30,000 bond. He faces a maximum of 46 months in prison on each count, if convicted.

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