By MARK FREEMAN
Monday’s telephoned bomb threats to courthouses in 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties — including Jackson County — will be investigated individually despite their apparent ties to each other and similar recent hoaxes in two other states.
The Oregon State Police’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Oregon Judicial Department are involved in coordinating a review of the phone threats to determine their connection to each other and to similar threat sprees Nov. 15 in Washington state and Nov. 2 in Nebraska, the OSP said Tuesday.
The FBI so far has offered assistance to the Medford Police Department and other agencies investigating the threats, but the federal agency will not take on the case despite the apparent three-state connection.
“We’ve offered assistance, but the cases are being investigated at the local level at this point,” said FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele in Portland. “Should they want that assistance, we’ll help them.”
Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said his agency will assign the case to a detective who will attempt to trace the 2:36 p.m. phone call that led to the evacuation of downtown Medford’s Jackson County Courthouse and Justice Center.
Budreau said it was highly unlikely that the man who seems to have telephoned all the Oregon threats is in Oregon, let alone Jackson County.
“There’s a multi-state pattern,” Budreau said. “What are the odds that Jackson County is going to break the case wide open? It’s not likely, but we’ll try.”
If a suspect is identified, he could be charged federally because using telephones or the mail to make threats is considered a federal crime.
However, should any prosecution be under Oregon state law, the most likely charge would be first-degree disorderly conduct, which is a Class A misdemeanor, Budreau said. That charge could only rise to felony status if the suspect has a previous conviction for first-degree disorderly conduct.
Monday’s string of threats were phoned individually between 2:30 and 4 p.m. to employees at 28 county courthouses and the Oregon Public Service Building, which houses the OSP’s headquarters in Salem.
The OSP originally reported 17 courthouses receiving threats, but expanded that number Tuesday afternoon after an Oregon Judicial Department review.
They included a man who telephoned Jackson County’s elections office and said a bomb would explode in the courthouse in 25 minutes. The old county courthouse at 10 S. Oakdale Ave. and the Justice Center across the street were evacuated and searched, but the elections office at 1101 W. Main St. was not evacuated.
Nothing suspicious was found, police said.
The elections clerk who fielded the call identified the voice as likely a white male in his 30s or 40s, but it’s difficult to glean that information from a single, short telephone call, Budreau said.
“We’re not going to put ourselves in a box on that,” Budreau said.
A detective likely will investigate the case through telephone records, “but that’s about it,” Budreau said.
It will take a subpoena or other court order to view those records, he said.
In all, 22 buildings were evacuated statewide, and no suspicious items were discovered, police said.
Josephine and Coos counties did not receive bomb threats.
The OSP has asked for help from the public in solving these cases.
Tips can be reported to Oregon State Police via email to crimetips2OSP@state.or.us. Information should have as much detail as possible and the tipster’s contact information, police said.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.