Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Security bolstered after bomb scares

School officials and police on heightened alert

Express Staff Writer

Scott Manning

    A recent rash of school security incidents and the recent discovery of six “bottle bombs” in the Wood River Valley have Blaine County School District officials concerned about the safety of district schools.
    Scott Manning, the district director of safety, said Tuesday that the bottle bombs, which explode from pressure when common household materials are combined, add to his concerns about school security.
    “It bothers me because I think it’s probably kids doing it,” Manning said. “We’re more aware of what’s going on. Yeah, it does worry me, especially because there’s shrapnel in them.
    “I’m wondering if it is kids that just want to see what happens or is it someone practicing to do harm.”
    The first bottle bomb was found in a mailbox in the East Fork area on April 24. It had partially detonated but a bomb squad from the Twin Falls Police Department was called in to render the device harmless.
    Five other bottle bombs, four of them already exploded and one that had malfunctioned, were found last week in Elkhorn Village, in Sun Valley.
    All six of the bombs contained metal objects that police described as shrapnel, making the bombs potentially deadly weapons if someone was near when one exploded.
    The bomb discoveries follow three other school security incidents within the past few months. On Jan. 11, someone used a shotgun to blast through a glass door for entry into Wood River High School. On April 4, an 18-year-old senior at Silver Creek High School was accused of using a school computer to search for bomb-making and other inappropriate websites. On April 18, a 16-year-old Wood River High School student allegedly called in a bomb threat, forcing evacuation of the school.
The shotgun case remains unsolved. However, arrests were made in both of the other incidents. The 16-year-old was arrested on a felony charge of making a bomb threat. Additional information is not currently available on the boy’s court status because the court file regarding his case has been sealed and is not available for public review.
    Court files are open to the public in two cases against Colton Emery Turner, the student accused of visiting inappropriate websites.
    Arrested on a probation violation charge on April 4, Turner was later charged with three misdemeanors: possession of a weapon on school property, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. The weapons charge relates to an unused red flare that Hailey police reported was found in Turner’s backpack when he was taken into custody. Police have determined that the flare could have been used as a deadly weapon.
    Turner, who has pleaded not guilty to all three charges, has remained incarcerated in the Blaine County jail on $250,000 bond. A jury trial in the case has been set to begin on July 11 in Blaine County Magistrate Court.
    Ketchum attorney Dan Dolan, assigned as Turner’s public defender, has filed a motion to suppress evidence against his client, claiming that Hailey police made an “unlawful stop, detention and arrest,” that Turner was not advised of his Constitutional rights before being questioned by police, and that police conducted an illegal search and seizure.
    Turner was initially arrested on April 4 on a probation violation charge from a felony grand-theft case filed against him when he was 17 and still a minor. In that case, filed on Feb. 4, Turner admitted to stealing more than $1,000 worth of jewelry from his legal guardian, a woman he was living with in Bellevue.
    Because of the probation violation, Turner was sentenced in Blaine County Juvenile Court on April 25 to “indeterminate” detention with the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. The sentence, pronounced by Judge Mark Ingram, provides that Turner can be held by the department until he is 21 years old.
Court records state that he will be returned to Blaine County for court hearings in the weapons and drug case against him.

Police concerns
Hailey police Lt. Steve England said Monday that both Turner and the 16-year-old in the bomb-threat case were questioned about the shotgun incident at Wood River High School, but police have no evidence against them.
“We don’t have reason to believe they were involved, after talking to them,” England said.
Like Manning, England acknowledged that police remain on heightened alert because of the recent bomb finds and school security incidents.
    “With the incidents we’ve had with the shotgun, the bomb site search, the bomb threat and what’s going on with the bombs in the community, we’re sure going to stay on alert,” he said.

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