Rome man arrested after phoning in bomb threats to Bradford County Courthouse
TOWANDA - A Rome man was being held at the Bradford County jail on $250,000 bail Thursday night after he phoned in two bomb threats to the Bradford County Courthouse earlier that day, state police said.
Authorities evacuated the courthouse after the bomb threats were made, which occurred just before 2 p.m., Bradford County Commissioner Daryl Miller said.
Tommy Gene Turner, 49, of Rome telephoned the Bradford County commissioners' office, located on the main floor of courthouse, at 1:55 p.m. Thursday and said: "There are three bombs in the building," according to the state police at Towanda.
Turner then called the commissioners' office four to five minutes later and made the same threat, authorities said.
Turner was later arrested and charged with one count of threat to use weapons of mass destruction and one count of terroristic threats, police said.
Each count carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and a $15,000 fine.
Turner had been scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday in the courthouse on a DUI charge, police said.
Turner admitted that he made the bomb threat so he wouldn't be sentenced on Thursday and could spend the holidays with his family, according to the state police.
The building was evacuated very soon after the threats came in, and the county employees who work in the courthouse were sent home early, Miller said.
Miller said Thursday night that the building had been searched by law enforcement and that it was safe to occupy again.
He said the courthouse will be open today to the public, and that it will operate on a regular schedule today.
The state police and employees of the Bradford County Sheriff's Office searched the courthouse, but no bomb was found, Miller said.
The state police also brought in a bomb-sniffing dog, which searched through the building, Miller said.
Because people who enter the courthouse must pass through a metal detector, there were doubts about whether the threat could have been real, Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said.
However, conceivably a bomb could have been placed alongside the building or elsewhere on the courthouse grounds, he said.
"You do it (evacuate the building and search it) as a precaution," Miller said, adding that there are standard procedures that were followed in responding to the threat.
Turner made the threats using a disposable cell phone, police said.
Law enforcement employees were able to use Frontier Communications phone records to determine the number of the Turner's cell phone as well as other numbers that Turner had called using the disposable phone, according to a criminal complaint that was filed by the state police on Thursday against Turner.
Police then phoned one of the numbers that Turner had called, spoke to the person who answered, and determined that it was Turner who had called that person, police said.