Friday was a busy day for the West Point Police Department.
Before noon, officers had responded to a legitimate bomb threat at the auto parts store AutoZone on Highway 45 Alternate and a false alarm at a West Point school.
“We had a bomb threat at AutoZone this morning,” West Point Police Chief Tim Brinkley confirmed on Friday afternoon, adding that this is the third threat of that nature in the last three months. “We're still investigating it.”
Last week and earlier this week, numerous Mississippi courthouses received bomb threats, and Clay County was one of 29 to receive such a threat on Wednesday, December 12.
The courthouse was immediately evacuated, and the bomb squad from Columbus Air Force Base was dispatched to Clay County equipped with a bomb sniffing dog which eventually cleared the building.
CAFB was on the scene Friday morning, along with West Point police officers, evacuating neighboring businesses and launching their initial investigation.
“We set up a perimeter,” Brinkley said. “The bomb squad from Columbus Air Force Base arrived with a bomb sniffing dog and cleared the building.”
Brinkley said that there were no customers in AutoZone at the time of the call.
“Someone called and indicated there was a bomb inside the store,” Brinkley said. “The caller used explicit language.”
The clerk left the store and called 9-11 which dispatched the WPPD.
The clerk who received the threat was not able to identify which line out of the two in the store the call came in on.
Brinkley says that phone provider may be able to identify the line which will help with the investigation.
“It is difficult to trace these calls, but they're not untraceable,” Brinkley said. “It takes a lot of leg work.”
Brinkley told the Daily Times Leader that investigations that involve threats are typically time consuming due to the methods used by the callers.
“They use a technology where they are able to mask their calls,” Brinkley said. “The number on the Caller-ID is not always the actual number where the call was made. That hinders our investigation.”
Brinkley says that his investigators will continue to peel through the layers of technology in order to pinpoint the caller.
Closer to lunch on Friday, Brinkley says a concerned citizen advised 9-11 dispatchers that a “suspicious” van that contained people wearing ski masks was near a West Point school, but it was later determined to be a false alarm.
“9-11 notified us, and we notified the school,” Brinkley said. “The school immediately went on lockdown. We dispatched officers, and they did patrols, but they did not discover the van.”
Brinkley said that in light of the events that transpired at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut the previous Friday, it was a good thing the citizen took the precaution and called 9-11.