By JOSH NEWTON
CNHI News Service
Several hundred people were evacuated from the Cherokee County Courthouse Wednesday morning, just before 9, after a man called in a bomb threat.
The caller phoned the courthouse and ended up talking with Laura Hendricks, a deputy clerk in the County Clerk’s Office. Hendricks said the man told her he was “tired of paying [his] f---ing fines” and then claimed there was a bomb in the courthouse.
Hendricks said she notified a safety manager, and a panic button in the courthouse was then pushed to notify other offices of the threat.
Personnel with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Tahlequah Police Department, Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Tahlequah Fire Department responded and evacuated the building.
Officials believe the caller was actually trying to get to the Cherokee County Court Clerk’s Office, where fines and other court-related matters are typically handled.
Investigators began looking through the three-story building and contacted the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Bomb Squad, which was dispatched immediately from Tulsa and began helping clear the building. At about 11 a.m., authorities said no threats had been discovered, but investigators were still conducting sweeps.
At about 11 a.m., the fire department left the scene, and roads around the facility were reopened.
Courthouse officials said the building was set to be closed until at least 1 p.m. Wednesday while authorities swept the building.
Police said they expect the suspect to be pinpointed quickly and dealt with “harshly” for making the threat.