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Teens arrested for bomb threat

Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Students visit while they wait after being evacuated from Mercer Island High School to Islander Stadium due to a bomb threat that was called in to the school office on Feb. 26. -
Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter Students visit while they wait after being evacuated from Mercer Island High School to Islander Stadium due to a bomb threat that was called in to the school office on Feb. 26.
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Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter

A Mercer Island High School sophomore girl was arrested on Feb. 27, along with a 16-year-old boy from Renton, for calling in a bomb-threat hoax the day before. Both juveniles confessed to the felony the next day and have been charged by the King County Prosecutor’s Office for Threats to Bomb or Injure Property.

After school administrators learned of the 15-year-old girl’s arrest, she was immediately expelled from school, pending further investigation.

“We have not decided what we’re going to do with her,” said MIHS Principal John Harrison. “Obviously, it’s a pretty serious thing. The legal system is taking it seriously and so are we.”

At approximately 8:10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, MIHS secretary Suzy Albrecht received a phone call that a bomb was set to go off in the school. Administrators immediately called the Mercer Island Police Department while evacuating all faculty and students to the high school stadium. The Washington State Patrol bomb unit was called in to search the school, and classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day.

After nearly three hours of searching MIHS, the bomb squad, which included bomb-sniffing dogs and explosive technicians from the Washington State Patrol and Department of Homeland Security, declared the building safe at 12:15 p.m.

Because class was in session for more than an hour before the evacuation, students will not have to make up the day, Harrison said.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the 15-year-old student admitted during questioning that she “hated being at MIHS” and was “having a bad day” on Feb. 26. She stated that she “needed to get out [of school]” and decided to call in a bomb threat. She then decided to call her boyfriend in Renton and ask him to make the call.

After she provided police with her boyfriend’s name and contact, he was arrested and quesitoned. The teenager admitted to making the hoax call. He said that a secretary had answered and he stated that “there’s a bomb in one of your lockers” and hung up. He then called his girlfriend and told her he had made the threat.

When asked about the anonymous phone call, Albrecht said the threat did not come across as a joke.

“There was no laughing,” the secretary said. “It wasn’t even a complete sentence. It was poorly constructed, grammatically incorrect, very brief and to the point. I asked ‘when’ and I asked ‘who is calling,’ and then the person hung up.”

According to Detective Pete Erickson, Threats to Bomb or Injure Property is a Class B felony. If the teenagers were 18, they could be punished with up to 10 years in prison or fined $20,000. However, since both students are minors, they will be “let off pretty easy,” Erickson said.

“It’s a pretty simple case we’ve got because both juveniles confessed,” he added. “It’s when they don’t confess that things get complicated.”

Interim Superintendent Gary Plano said that the 15-year-old girl, who transferred to MIHS from Renton in September, will most likely be re-enrolled at another school. Although initially listed in the police report as a Seattle resident, the 15-year-old lives in a home on Mercer Island at least four days a week, allowing her to attend MIHS.

However, Plano emphasized that, in his opinion, the teenagers’ residency has little to do with their crime.

“I don’t think this particular threat had to do with the fact that the students are not from Mercer Island,” he said. “I think it’s more [a consequence of] two troubled students who made very poor choices.”

Shortly after Tuesday’s evacuation, administrators and police discussed how to prevent a repeat of last week’s bomb scare.

“We’re planning to talk with counselors — particularly Youth and Family Services — to see if we can pinpoint the problem and provide an intervention sooner,” he said.

During a sports assembly held on Friday, Feb. 29, Harrison commended MIHS students for their cooperation during the bomb scare. He re-emphasized the seriousness of the incident and thanked each student for “handling the situation professionally.”

Speaking on behalf of the School Board, President Pat Braman echoed Harrison’s words.

“The students were fabulous, responsible and serious at a very difficult time,” she said. “We hope that we’ll never have to experience these things again, but we’ll be prepared if events like this do occur.”

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