McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

September 10, 2013

Sheriff, police officers, sweep courthouse for explosives

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Sheriff’s deputies and McAlester police conducted a sweep of the Pittsburg County Courthouse on Monday, after police received a phone call from an individual who reported he’d overheard heard a comment about “explosives” and a “courthouse.”

Sheriff’s deputies and McAlester police searched the courthouse from top to bottom —literally from on top of the roof to down in the basement — but law enforcement officers said they found no indication of an explosive device anywhere on the premises.

McAlester/Pittsburg County Emergency Management Director Trent Myers assisted by advising some courthouse employees to conduct a sweep of their area and see if they saw any unusual items that should be reported to law enforcement officers.

Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns said McAlester police contacted him about the matter in response to a telephone call. The caller didn’t leave a name, but claimed to have overheard a conversation with references to “explosives” and a “courthouse,” the sheriff said.

Police were able to pinpoint the source of the call as coming from the vicinity of a McAlester convenience store, but when  police arrived, the caller had already left, ac cording to Kerns.

In response to the phone call, law enforcement officers went to each office in the courthouse, Kerns said.

“We placed a man on top of the courthouse,” said Kerns, so the rooftop could be checked.

Sheriff’s Deputy Susan Channon and Investigator Wesley Robertson, helped conduct a sweep around the perimeter of the courthouse and annex, including the outside of the District 18 District Attorney’s Office and the Pittsburg County Election Board Office.

They also checked underneath the building in the courthouse basement, shining flashlights to look in darkened corners for anything unusual.

Officers conducting the sweep found nothing out of the ordinary in connection with the sweep for an explosive device.

As the search proceeded, county offices remained open as usual at the courthouse, with individuals walking in and out to conduct their business, oblivious to the sweep that was under way.

Sheriff Kerns said he conferred with Emergency Management Director Trent Myers and they made a mutual decision not to evacuate the courthouse.

“He agreed with me,” Kerns said.

The sheriff said they made the decision because he did not feel there was enough evidence to order the evacuation.

Although explosives and a courthouse had reportedly been mentioned, the sheriff said no specific threat had been reported and the Pittsburg County Courthouse had not been mentioned by name.

Kerns said he already had officers in the vicinity because of court-related matters under way Monday. In addition, he’s implementing enhanced security measures this week because of the 9-11 anniversary, the sheriff said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.