Tucumcari Police Chief Larry Ham reviewed the bomb threat checklist with Lt. Chuck Newman on Friday prior to distributing it to all locations that were targeted in Wednesday's and Thursday's bomb threats. Quay County Sun photo: Ryn Gargulinski
Two bomb threats hit Tucumcari in as many days this week — both of them false alarms, according to police.
The first threat happened at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday when an unidentified caller contacted the Quay County courthouse and said bombs were planted at the courthouse, Children, Youth and Families Department, the DWI task force office and the juvenile probation office, police said. In response to Wednesday’s threat, police said bomb-sniffing dogs were called in from Cannon Air Force Base but no explosives were found.
Police believe the same caller contacted the courthouse again around 1 p.m. on Thursday. This time the individual said bombs were in the courthouse, CYFD, the DWI task force office and magistrate court. Again, no explosives were found, officials said.
In both instances all cited locations were notified and evacuated, Police Chief Larry Ham said.
“Many times these calls are made anonymously from remote locations and it’s difficult to actually identify the suspect,” Ham said. “But in this case we have several suspects and we are aggressively pursuing leads on this case.”
Quay County Sheriff Jack Huntley, who said the bomb threats were at the top of his list of priorities, also said law enforcement officials were close to nabbing a suspect.
Officials said anyone making a false bomb report can be charged with a misdemeanor crime, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine. If injury or death occurs as result of a false bomb report, the offense is a felony, which carries automatic jail time, police said.
Police are also handing out bomb-threat checklists to the places that were targeted. In addition to keeping the caller on the line as long as possible, the checklist offers an efficient way to mark down data about the caller, such as type of voice, manner of speaking and background noises.
Quay County Manager Terry Turner’s comments regarding the bomb threats included a lauding of the city and county’s law enforcement.
“I think first thing comes to mind after hindsight is that we appreciate the coordinated efforts of the police department and the sheriff’s department. Chief Ham is new and he and his staff responded immediately. On the positive side, this was a good exercise in emergency response,” Turner said.
On the downside, Turner said, the threat and evacuation led to a loss of productivity, especially since a Santa Fe representative from the Department of Finance who was helping Turner look for financial opportunities for the county left town earlier than scheduled.
Turner also said the courthouse, which is well stocked in law enforcement officials with the sheriff and district attorney’s office in the building, will also be receiving suggestions from the Association of Counties on new safety protocol.
While local officials from the magistrate court did not wish to comment, Karen Janes, magistrate court division director in Santa Fe, said they were doing all they can to ensure future safety of Quay’s magistrate courthouse.
“We are concerned about the threats; we want to provide a secure environment for judges, staff and the public,” Janes said.
She said they have installed a pass key entry system and a closed circuit TV system.
Although the magistrate court has no funds for a security staff, she said, “We will be doing everything we can to make the building as secure as possible, including cooperating with local authorities.”
Officials and employees at the CYFD, DWI task force and juvenile probation offices either did not wish to comment or were unavailable.