McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 7, 2013

FBI brought into Anthrax hoax investigation

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Officials say they are looking at possible suspects linked to Friday’s anthrax threat which shut down the Pittsburg County courthouse and two other buildings.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns said Monday that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was brought into the investigation to help track the call he said is considered a “terrorist threat.”

“What that caller did is a terrorist threat and its federal crime,” Kerns said.

“The FBI is assisting us and we are also working with the phone company to narrow down the suspects.”

On Friday the Pittsburg County courthouse and two other buildings were quickly evacuated soon after anonymous person called 911 and said Anthrax had been “deposited in the McAlester Oklahoma courthouse.”

Soon after the 8:19 a.m. call was received county the courthouse, the District 18 District Attorneys office, and the Pittsburg County Election Board were all evacuated.

After a through check of the adjacent buildings, workers were allowed back into their offices soon after 10 a.m.

The courthouse remained closed for the day and hazardous materials team was called to inspect the building and no Anthrax was found, Kerns said.

Immediately after Friday’s evacuation, city and county officials gathered for an executive briefing to organize their different agencies to handle the situation.

Included in the briefing was McAlester Police Chief Gary Wansick, McAlester Fire Capt. Doug Basinger and Chief Brett Brewer; Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns and Undersheriff Richard Bedford, District Judge Thomas Bartheld Associate and District Judge James Bland; and Pittsburg County Emergency Management Director Trent Meyers along with several others.

A follow- up briefing with the officials will be planned soon Meyers said.

“We plan to get together for a “Hot Wash,” Meyers said.

“To evaluate how we did during the evacuation and see how we can improve for next time.”

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.