RATHDRUM, Idaho – A bomb scare closed down state Highway 41 and a gas station mini-mart for much of Tuesday afternoon and evening following the discovery of a suspicious package outside the store.
The package was detonated by a Spokane bomb squad shortly before 7 p.m. and found to be empty.
One of the regular customers of the Hico Country Store and Exxon station at the southern intersection of state highways 41 and 53 found the package when he answered one of the pay phones that was ringing outside the store about 3 p.m., said Rathdrum Police Lt. Alex Carrington.
“The caller said it’s important that the package by your feet get to the police,” Carrington said.
The man who answered the phone looked down and saw a white cardboard box, taped shut, on the ground between the pay phone and a Coca-Cola vending machine, Carrington said.
The man immediately went inside and told a clerk.
“He was very concerned,” said store owner Eldon Goodwin. The store called the police, who evacuated the premises, including a number of high school and middle school students who had just been released from nearby schools.
Rathdrum police called in the fire department, ambulance crews, a hazardous materials team, the Spokane County bomb squad and the Idaho State Police for assistance.
The ISP detoured traffic away from downtown Rathdrum. The drive-through window at McDonalds was closed, but the restaurant remained open.
A robot belonging to the bomb squad blew up the package, and damaged the coke machine in the process.
After the smoke had cleared, investigators examined the empty box, now busted apart, its packaging tape wrinkled and scorched from the blast.
About the same time, a tipster called the Rathdrum Police and gave them the name of a possible suspect. Carrington said he’d have to get out the Idaho code book to figure out exactly what charges may apply, but he was certain there was going to be some restitution required to cover the overtime pay for public safety workers and lost income to Goodwin.
Goodwin said he doesn’t think the prank was targeted at him. Instead, he said, “we just happen to have pay phones in the wrong place at the wrong time.”