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Briefcase bomb scare prompts review

 

The briefcase bomb scare has caused the Henderson County Sheriff's Department to review the process at the security check at the Courthouse entrance.

 

The Grove Street Courthouse was evacuated and shut down for three hours on Oct. 7 when a courthouse visitor who had been involved in a civil lawsuit carried a briefcase with tape across the latches upstairs to the clerk's office. The briefcase, the man told clerks, contained evidence that he needed to get to Superior Court Judge Mark Powell.
Although the Sheriff's Department said in a news release that the briefcase "was intercepted by the courthouse security team and x-rayed," the security team made up of volunteers overseen by a deputy actually let the briefcase go through after scanning it. The case was red-flagged by someone at the clerk's office upstairs, setting off a dramatic bomb squad response that closed streets around the courthouse and shut down business for a half day.
CharlieMcDonaldSheriff Charlie McDonaldWhile court personnel and Sheriff Charlie McDonald stopped short of calling the episode a security breach, the sheriff acknowledged that he needed to review the protocol for checking on items even if they don't appear to contain a weapon.
"In all honesty, in my mind, it's something we should have picked up," McDonald said. "It did go through the magnetometer and there was nothing that indicated any explosive components and that's why it didn't raise any eyebrows. But there are always teaching points and times when we reevaluate what we have been doing and what we can do to prevent that from happening again. I'm disappointed that it got in the building. There wasn't any protocol that we violated that allowed that to happen, although that makes me think we need to look at the protocol."
Once court personnel raised concerns, the sheriff's department responded quickly.
A special operations squad from the sheriff's department and the SBI raced to the building and a robotic machine removed the briefcase as deputies blocked off streets surrounding the Courthouse. The bomb squad blew the briefcase apart at Jackson Park. It contained a tape recorder and court papers that the owner wanted to file with the judge. The scare made some court personnel question how the oddly wrapped briefcase could have gotten in to start with.When the clerk's office called the judge's administrative assistant, Daphne Carland, and told her that Judge Powell had a package, Carland refused to accept it. The man who carried it in, Jose Quinone, had been in a dispute with Bank of America, said Maj. Frank Stout, the sheriff's spokesman. Carland knew of the case and was suspicious about his package.

Authorities questioned Quinone at length and found no reason to charge him.
"No specific threats were made by the person delivering the briefcase and after being detained and questioned by investigators he was released," said the news release the sheriff's office issued after the bomb threat was resolved. "Charges have not been filed and do not appear likely at this time."

 

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