A bomb threat at the courthouse Thursday morning apparently turned out to be just that, a threat.
Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said a woman called the DeKalb County Circuit Court Clerk's Office between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. to report that her husband was planning to come to the courthouse to set off a homemade explosive device. It was initially rumored that the caller said something about the man being upset concerning his taxes, which may have sparked the threat. But Chief Caplinger said the clerk told police that the caller never mentioned taxes. "After I questioned the person at the courthouse who took the call, taxes were never mentioned. She (clerk) gave the phone to a court officer and the lady hung up. We don't know if it (the threat) was court related or tax related. It could be anything right now," said Chief Caplinger..
Since it was uncertain if the caller was directing the threat to someone in the courthouse downtown or the new county complex on South Congress Boulevard, Chief Caplinger said both buildings were evacuated as a precaution. General Sessions Court, which was underway at the time, was dismissed. Court resumed later in the afternoon.
Roads around the public square were blocked to keep traffic away from the courthouse and, according to Chief Caplinger, "students attending summer school at Smithville Elementary were moved to the far end of the building so that if something did happen they would be out of harm's way," he said.
Chief Caplinger praised all agencies involved for their quick response including the Smithville Police Department, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, FBI, District Attorney General's Office, Tennessee Bomb and Arson, the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department, and City Fire Chief and local Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Charlie Parker. " A bomb dog was brought in and swept both buildings to check for any type of explosive device. Nothing suspicious was found. The dog did not alert on anything. The courthouse was released to open back up at around 12:45 p.m. The county (complex) building was released to open back up later," said Chief Caplinger.
No arrests have been made in the case, but Chief Caplinger said police are following up on some leads. " Its still under investigation. We're still following leads and putting evidence together to try to determine who made this call and where it came from. We have a couple of leads, nothing real strong. There was vague information given. We're running down phone records trying to find out," said Chief Caplinger.
"The (caller) mentioned the name of a local business and we're following up on that. We're not sure if it (the call) was made from that business, or if the subject worked at that business," he said. The caller, according to the chief, may have been Hispanic.
Chief Caplinger said he wants to thank everyone who participated in this search and investigation. "Everyone did a good job and we had great cooperation between each agency. Everybody responded quickly. If he was on the way to the courthouse, it was shut down pretty quickly, which would have diverted anyone from coming in," he added.