Bomb threats clear out school, bank

Published on Thu, Jan 16, 2003
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Bomb threats clear out school, bank

Blaine schools and a chunk of Birch Bay Drive were shut down for a few hours Monday night followinf simultaneous bomb threats and a bank robbery.

Blaine school district’s administration office got the call at 5 p.m. January 13 said Mike Haslip, sworn in as Blaine’s police chief later that evening. The male caller said only “I thought you might want to know there’s a pipe bomb at the high school,” Haslip said. “The more non-specific they are the more chance we have that they’re unfounded but we can’t take that to heart,” he said.

Blaine police responded by 5:10 p.m. with Sergeant Lonnie Bauman of the Ferndale police department with dog Larko, specially trained to sniff out explosives. Bauman and Larko started in the new gym, which they cleared by 5:40, allowing shivering basketball players back inside. The old gym was next followed by the main school building. “There was no bomb, no sign of a bomb,” Haslip said.

“Those Meridian girls knew we would whoop them and that’s why they called it in,” quipped one of several dozen Blaine students, staff and guest athletes huddled outside the high school gym.

Meanwhile, Blaine’s own police dog Yoschi and handler Matthew Munden were in Birch Bay helping Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies search for a man who robbed the Bank Northwest branch by threatening staff with a pipe. Responding to a 911 call, also made at 5 p.m. deputies responded to the bank but the robber was gone. He had entered the bank earlier carrying a cardboard box, said county chief criminal deputy Jeff Parks. “He announced he was robbing the bank and presented what he said was a bomb,” Parks said. Placing the box on the counter he demanded money and the teller complied, handing over an undisclosed amount of money.

Birch Bay Drive was closed and the TrendWest buildings, where the bank is located, and some neighboring businesses cleared. Bellingham bomb squad was called in along with the FBI and alcohol tobacco and firearms authorities. “They determined it did not in fact contain a bomb,” Parks said.

Despite an extensive three-hour search the suspect was not located. Parks described his as a white male, 5’10” and 155 to165 pounds, dressed in dark clothing with a mask and a blue backpack, possibly in his late 30s and asked that anyone with information contact the sheriff’s office.

While Blaine police are investigating the incident at the school and the county sheriff is investigating the Birch Bay robbery, it may end up as one investigation. There was some speculation that the bomb threat may have been a planned distraction for the robbery. “We’re investigating the possibility,” Haslip said.
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