Authorities from Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania are considering filing misdemeanor charges and other disciplinary measures against three teen boys, who confessed to making a bomb threat that targeted the Wal-Mart store in Woodland Park
The bomb scare forced the evacuation of the Wal-Mart store on March 15 at 10:40 p.m., while the threat was investigated by Wal-Mart employees, the Woodland Park Police and a bomb squad from Ft. Carson. The store was then reopened around 2 a.m. on March 16, after investigators couldn’t find any suspicious devices. However, local authorities now say there is no link between the Woodland Park Wal-Mart and a series of other big-box store bomb threats in Colorado, Kansas and other nearby states, which occurred within a several day period. Also, the motive of the prank callers, who targeted the store in Woodland Park, is still unclear.
“This is not normal behavior for anyone, even if it was a joke,” said Detective Joseph Signorella of the Harrison Township Police in western Pennsylvania, which investigated the case along with the Woodland Park Police Department, according to a report in The Colorado Springs Gazette.
Unlike most local bomb threats, which usually go undetected, this time the pranksters got caught. In a joint investigation, authorities were able to trace the call with the assistance of Verizon Wireless and the dispatch center of the WP Police Department. The call was traced to an address in Natrona Heights. When authorities from the Harrison Police Department contacted one of the youths involved in the scare, the youth admitted he and two of his friends made the call and the bomb threat to the Wal-Mart in Woodland Park. All three have now confessed to the crime.
Why they picked the store in Woodland Park is still a mystery.
The youths face possible misdemeanor charges by the district attorney in Allegheny County, according to reports, and disciplinary action from the Harrison School District. Another issue is the costs involved in investigating this threat, with summoning a special bomb squad from Colorado Springs. According to Woodland Park police officials, the juvenile pranksters won’t be extradited back to Woodland Park. And because they are juveniles, their names can’t be released.
Despite previous media reports, there isn’t any apparent link between this scare and a bevy of other bomb threats that also targeted Wal-Mart outlets in Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma around the same time. According to KKTV news, the Wal-Mart on Platte and Chelton in Colorado Springs was also closed for several hours recently while the bomb squad and police canines searched for anything suspicious. The search turned out negative.
Bomb threats were also reported on March 16 at Wal-Mart stores in Commerce City, Colo., Great Bend and Salina, Kansas, and stores in Oklahoma. These additional threats prompted speculation that the same teens may be involved, but officials say no link exists.
The bomb threats, though, have created an uneasy feeling among regular Wal-Mart shoppers. But at the same time, shoppers are happy that store officials are following detailed procedures in investigating bomb threats.
This isn’t the first time business at the Woodland Park Wal-Mart has been interrupted by a bomb threat. A bomb threat occurred at the Woodland Wal-Mart around the Thanksgiving weekend of 2011 during “Black Friday.” That one shut down the Wal-Mart outlet for several hours during a prime shopping period and cost the store thousands of dollars, according to Wal-Mart employees. The Teller County Hazmat Team and the bomb detecting experts were summoned from Colorado Springs.
No suspects were named in the earlier case.