Sirens wailed, police evacuated Mineral County buildings in response to a May 28 bomb threat. The U.S. Navy also sent a bomb sniffing dog from Fallon Naval Air Station for assistance.
The threat originated from an online secret witness tip in Reno at 11:24 a.m. Sheriff Stewart Handte said that the tip stated multiple acts of violence would occur at the Mineral County District Court.
The tipster also specifically identified the county clerk, the judge and district attorney as targets of the violence. Reno Police Dept. did not notify Mineral County police of the threat until 1:54 p.m. — by fax.
Handte said the received tip merely contained the tip’s number, and the statement, “terrorism explosion planned at court house.” Handte expressed displeasure at the method of transmission.
“As most people know, unless you’re anticipating a specific fax, you don’t check the fax machine that often. I finally get the message around 3 o’clock from Deputy Hults. I’m like, Holy Smokes,” Handte said.
Taking the threat as credible, Handte immediately implemented plans for evacuating the building. After notifying relevant emergency departments, including Nevada Highway Patrol and the Fallon Naval Air Station, police evacuated the entire building. Police also evacuated jail inmates to the fire department.
Officials established Incident Command at the fire department, while emergency personnel evacuated the entire Mineral County Library and parts of Mt. Grant Hospital. As the district attorney received a specific mention in the threat, the Mineral County Justice Court Annex received evacuation orders also.
“We secured the perimeters and went through the interiors of the District Court building as well as the Justice Court and found nothing,” Handte said. A debriefing at the fire house followed the searches.
From 3 to 7 p.m., all personnel were on high tactical alert,” Handte said.
“Look, I’ve been doing this for 27 years and no tactical operation goes off 100 percent. As far as I’m concerned, we were close. No one got hurt, no one got killed and we got the buildings re-staffed as soon as we got the all clear,” Handte said.
Handte did not have praise for everyone. “I called the Reno Police Department and advised them I was less than pleased with the delay in time element of notification and the actual notification process. They agreed specifically that it was unacceptable.” Handte said.
Handte added that the Reno department assured him it would not happen again.
“I’m very proud of the way our department handled the situation. Everyone involved in this tactical operation are to be commended. Without the cooperation of everyone involved, it would have been a cluster. We’ll award commendations at a later date and time,” Handte said.
As regarding the person or persons who made the threat, Handte advised that they not rest easy. “We have pulled a case number for a deputy to begin an investigation, and the FBI was contacted and they are monitoring the case as we speak,” Handte concluded.