Bomb threat shuts courthouse

LIHUE — A morning bomb threat closed the 5th Circuit Courthouse for just over an hour Wednesday.

The Kauai Police Department received a call claiming a bomb was inside the courthouse, and notified court staff at 8:36 a.m., said Chief Court Administrator David Lam.

“We evacuated the courthouse as a precautionary measure,” Lam said. “The sheriffs, as well as police, cleared the building.”

KPD blocked the parking lot entrance before setting roadblocks at the only road entrances at Kaana Street and Kapule Highway, and on Hoolako Street near the Vidinha Stadium parking lot. Around 150 people were evacuated to soccer fields near the County Transportation Agency building.

The deputies of the Hawaii State Sheriffs Department conducted a walkthrough and cleared the building at 9:40 a.m. The threat was deemed not credible.

The doors to the courthouse open to the public at 7:45 a.m. Staff and defendants were in the building for 8 a.m. hearings when the order came to evacuate.

Two Drug Court defendants recall the moment when deputies approached Chief Judge Randal Valenciano. The judge called the attorneys to the bench before making an announcement that the building needed to be evacuated.

Trevor Guttmann and David Perreira Jr., both of Kalaheo, said they meet every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. They were almost finished updating the court on the progress of the participants when the sheriffs and attorney approached the judge.

“We were actually almost pau, and then they stopped it and had a little conversation between the attorneys and then they brought us out here,” Guttmann said.

Perreira recalled the last bomb threat that occurred on March 27, 2013. The caller claimed there an explosive in the court house at around 7:40 a.m., and the court evacuated until it was cleared.

“I remember the last time there were police walking around with their guns and it was raining,” Perreira said.

Given what has happened around the world in the past few days, there is every reason to take every threat seriously, said Drug Court counselor Martin Steinhaus. It could be an army attack, like what happened in Pakistan, or one individual, like the attack that happened in Sydney, Australia, this week, he said.

“You just never know,” he said.

Local private attorney Mark Zenger said bomb threats happens frequently enough that it is less likely a credible threat, rather someone who was going to miss their court hearing calling in so they won’t have to face a bench warrant for failing to appear.

“Since the bomb threat was after 8:30 a.m. and before 9 a.m., I am guessing that this person was on Judge Kathleen Watanabe’s calendar because it doesn’t start until 9 a.m.,” Zenger said.

KPD is handling the investigation.

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