DALLAS CO., AL (WSFA) - A group of teenagers is facing charges after a series of bomb threats at schools in Selma and Dallas County. Officials say the baseless threats disrupted learning, caused concern and wasted a lot of resources.
It prompted evacuations and searches at five different schools last week. Some of the schools even got threats twice in the same day.
The threats were called in over a four day period (April 24-27) at R.B. Hudson Middle School in Selma, Selma High School, Southside High School, Keith Middle/High School, and Dallas County High School.
"They would call in and it would sound like a male voice," said Captain Mike Granthum with the Dallas County Sheriff's Department. "They would say there was a bomb in the school and give a possible location, or sometimes they wouldn't. They said they were about to blow the school but wouldn't give reason or anything. We'd try to keep them on the line to find out some more information but they hung up each time."
Officials say four threats were made to Dallas County High School, two were made to Southside, one was made to Keith, three were made to Selma High School and two were made to R.B. Hudson.
"They used city schools and county schools so there was no rhyme or reason and no certain time so it was kind of hard to work but every time a bomb threat would go out, we'd have to send officers out and volunteer fire departments out and assist us in trying to locate a bomb," Granthum explained.
Law enforcement had to take each threat seriously. No bombs were found after every classroom, lunchroom and book bag left behind were carefully searched by authorities. All actions at the schools were halted until everything was cleared.
"At first we didn't know for sure if it was a prank call. It did turn out to be a prank but we had to take each one of them seriously. It interrupts the school system. Instead of teaching, the teachers had to assist us in evacuating the schools," Granthum stated. "Sometimes it would take an hour, or hour and a half to clear a school in order for them to come back into the school."
Four teenagers were arrested and charged with multiple counts of making a terrorist threat, which is a felony offense. On Monday, officials indicated that the suspects were being held in a juvenile detention facility.
"There's no excuse for this. Some people might think they're just kids but if you do the crime, you have to do the time," said Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson. "More juveniles might be arrested if authorities learn that more people were involved. It's still under investigation."
With the help of the State Bureau of Investigation and the Fusion Center, which is the state's intelligence hub, investigators traced the phone numbers used to make the bomb threats, leading to the arrest of the four teens. According to Granthum, three of the suspects are students at a Dallas County High School and one is a student at Selma High School.
The District Attorney's Office is working to determine whether or not they will be charged as adults.
"It just disrupted a lot of things, not to mention it puts parents in fear that their children are not safe," Jackson said. "What these kids don't realize is that with the technology today, it's pretty easy to trace things. Basically, the hammer is going to be put down on these kids for doing this. They wasted a lot of resources and time and caused a lot of fear."
Lt. Tory Neely with the Selma Police Department said, when interviewed, all four of the teens admitted to their involvement in making the threats. Their names were not released because they are juveniles.
"The kids might have thought it was funny but I don't think it's funny any longer. They realize what has happened and how serious it was. Some of them showed remorse. They know they've done wrong but we're going to prosecute it to the fullest," Granthum added.