California boy arrested as suspect in Helena bomb threats
UPDATE 5:00 PM
Authorities have arrested a 14-year-old boy Dublin, California in connection with the series of bomb threats this week in Helena.
Police Chief Troy McGee says researching the calls earlier from earlier in the week led authorities to believe they may have been coming from out of state.
“All the IP Addresses, all the wifi connections, there are just so many ways you can connect with people this day and age, but all of them you can trace backwards,” he said, adding the department asked the FBI for help in the case.
The Lewis and Clark County Attorney’s Office has been in contact with a prosecutor in California to sort out what charges may be filed against this boy, who was picked up shortly after this morning’s call.
The Police Department says, for an adult, each call would have been a separate charge of felony intimidation—punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $50 thousand dollar fine, or both.
Helena Schools Superintendent Kent Kultgen says the school district will find a way to make up the lost time, either through adding a school day or slightly extending remaining days.
Yet, he says it that won’t replace the continuity of education the students would have had.
“So when you get right down to the education of the child, it’s really disrupting, it’s disrupting to the child themselves as another bomb threat because we really want to offer a safe and secure environment for those children,” Kultgen said.
UPDATE 1:55 PM
Helena Assistant Police Chief Steve Hagen said authorities believe all three Helena school bomb threats this week are related. He would not provide further details, saying it would hinder an ongoing investigation.
Each of the three calls would be considered a separate charge of felony intimidation. Hagen said that charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both.
Helena Schools were evacuated Friday morning after a bomb threat was phoned in to city police. It is the fourth such threat in Montana this week, three of them being in the Capital City.
Students in grades K-12 were quickly sent to pre-determined evacuation areas after the threat, to wait for guardians to pick them up.
"I'm so happy the Police Department is taking these seriously, as they should be,” said parent Heidi O’Brien while picking up her two boys at the Capitol Building, which is the evacuation area for Jefferson Elementary. “And then the other part of me is like if this is a joke, it's such a sick joke."
Police report in a press release the threat was called in at 8:30 AM Friday. The anonymous caller said bombs had been placed in all Helena schools. Buildings were still being swept as of noon today. No bomb has been found.
Friday’s phone call comes after similar threats Tuesday at Helena’s Capitol High School and Wednesday for all Helena elementary schools. Frenchtown Middle and High School Students were also evacuated Thursday after a bomb threat was found written in highlighter in a boys bathroom. All of the cases turned out to be hoaxes.
Helena Schools Superintendent Kent Kultgen said Friday these threats will not be seen as pranks.
"It's a crime for us having to shift our resources,” he said. “It's a crime that our students are losing their day of education. It's a crime that you're taking away the safety and security feeling that children have in their schools, staff and community."
Helena Police are planning a press conference for this afternoon to release more information on Friday’s threat.
School has been canceled for the remainder of the day in Helena. There is no school next week due to spring break.