January 30, 2011 in City, Idaho

Fake bomb found near Kootenai County sheriff’s office

Government Way shut down for hours
By The Spokesman-Review
Carolyn Lamberson photo

A member of the Explosive Disposal Unit approaches a suspicious device Saturday outside the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department campus in Coeur d’Alene after a robot was used to take a closer look.
(Full-size photo)

A bomb scare closed part of Government Way in Coeur d’Alene for several hours Saturday, before the Spokane bomb squad was able to determine the device was a fake.

The device – a cell phone strapped to a road flare with a battery stuffed inside – was found in a drain pipe on the southwest corner of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department campus, 5500 N. Government Way, near the boundary with the county fairgrounds.

An inmate on a work crew discovered it about 9:15 a.m., said Maj. Ben Wolfinger of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department. The inmate carried the device several yards to a supervising deputy. The deputy told him to put it down, cleared the inmates from the area and called for help.

Given the potentially deadly nature of the bomb left along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity March in Spokane nearly two weeks ago, officials treated the device seriously, Wolfinger said.

As they waited for the Explosive Disposal Unit to arrive, deputies looked for other devices along the perimeter of the campus, which houses the county jail, sheriff’s offices, impound and evidence yard and other public safety services. Government Way between Kathleen and Dalton avenues was closed until after 2 p.m.

The bomb squad robot was deployed and quickly discovered the object wasn’t a bomb.

The device was wet, but there was no way to tell how long it had been there.

“Given our weather, it could have been there for months,” he said.

Wolfinger said the Coeur d’Alene Police Department will take over the investigation. Under a law that went into effect last year, making a device to look like a bomb is a felony in Idaho, Wolfinger said.

Wolfinger did not know if the device could be connected to two other real bombs planted nearby in recent months – in August near the Kootenai County Fairgrounds and in September near Coeur d’Alene High School.

“I think that any time you make something that looks like a real explosive device and put it in a public place like the sheriff’s office parking lot, that is certainly meant to intimidate people,” he said.

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