Colorado Mountain College bomb threat suspect arrested in Leadville, campus on lockout for nearly 10 hours
LEADVILLE — The Colorado Mountain College campus in Leadville was put on lockout Monday morning after a bomb threat forced the evacuation of around 68 people to the cafeteria, where they remained until the area was cleared by a bomb squad shortly after 6 p.m.
The lockout alert was issued at around 9:20 a.m. after authorities said a suspect called in the threat to 911. That person was quickly arrested, authorities said, but his name has not been released. Officials haven’t yet confirmed whether or not the suspect is a CMC student.
The incident came just days after threats of violence made on an online message board placed schools in the Roaring Fork Valley under lockout. The threat was later determined to be spam, and no one was arrested.
Leadville public schools were placed on lockout on Monday morning, meaning that no one could enter them but classes continued on as normal, Lake County director of emergency management Mike McHarg told reporters during an afternoon news conference.
Roughly 30 first responders from local law enforcement agencies were on scene providing perimeter security, and the only road into the campus was blocked off.
Investigators were focusing on a backpack that had been left in the library, McHarg said, and law enforcement was awaiting a bomb squad that was en route from El Paso County.
McHarg didn’t know whether or not the suspect was a student at the college, but said that the person was arrested quickly and “was probably on campus” at the time.
A spokeswoman for Colorado Mountain College referred any questions regarding the investigation to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and Lake County Office of Emergency Management (LCOEM)
In an email, the spokeswoman said that classes had been cancelled for the day and evening at CMC Leadville but would continue as normal at all of other CMC campuses.
The sheriff’s department declined to comment and said all information relevant to the case would be relayed through the LCOEM.
McHarg was unable to say whether or not investigators believed the suspect had been acting alone or whether he was cooperating with investigators.
“The person who made that specific claim is not retracting that claim,” McHargue said, referring to the suspect.
McHarg said students, faculty and staff were evacuated to the cafeteria because that was the building farthest from the library.
In a Facebook post, the LCOEM said the students were safe and having lunch with CMC vice president and campus dean Rachel Pokrand.
By the afternoon, some students were being gradually released, although the campus remained on lockdown.
“None of those folks had any knowledge of the suspect,” McHarg said.
The bomb threat and subsequent lockdown surprised local residents of the small mountain town, which hadn’t seen another explosives-related threat since 2012, when a man speeding through town lobbed an old grenade out of his window while trying to elude authorities, McHarg recalled.
Three homes were evacuated and the area was cordoned off while an explosives team disposed of the device. The man was later killed in a confrontation with police near Villa Grove in Saguache County.
Bear Opitz, an emergency medical technician student at CMC, said he was on his way to the library this morning when he was stopped and turned around by armed law enforcement officers.
“That was kind of shocking,” he said. “You might expect that sort of thing at a big city school, but I definitely didn’t think that could happen here in Leadville.”
Local resident Debbie Vasquez has two sons enrolled in classes at CMC, and although they weren’t on campus at the time, she was surprised and troubled by the incident.
“I was pretty concerned, and I still am if it really is a bomb,” she said. “I knew this kind of thing could happen anywhere, but I never thought it could happen in our town.”
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