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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Police focusing on suspect in HBHS threats, no evacuation made on Friday after threats were deemed ‘not credible’

HOLLIS – Police have narrowed their focus to a single individual as they continue to investigate two written bomb threats discovered on successive days at Hollis Brookline High School last week, Lt. Rich Mello said.

While some parents weren’t pleased that students, teachers and staff weren’t evacuated on Friday, when the second threat was found, Mello said investigators had determined by then that the threats “weren’t credible” and there was no danger to those in the building. ...

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HOLLIS – Police have narrowed their focus to a single individual as they continue to investigate two written bomb threats discovered on successive days at Hollis Brookline High School last week, Lt. Rich Mello said.

While some parents weren’t pleased that students, teachers and staff weren’t evacuated on Friday, when the second threat was found, Mello said investigators had determined by then that the threats “weren’t credible” and there was no danger to those in the building.

“We do have a suspect in mind, but we’re still processing evidence before we can make an arrest,” Mello said.

He described the messages, both of which were written on a bathroom wall, as “non-specific threats” that indicated “something to the effect of ‘I’m going to blow this place up.’ ”

“They were obviously written by a student,” Mello added.

Officials evacuated the school, a cooperative that includes grades 9-12 for students from Hollis and Brookline, after the first threat, scribbled in pencil, was discovered on Thursday.

The school sent a notification to parents at 11:10 a.m. to alert them of the situation. The message said in part, “All students and staff have been evacuated and community first response agencies have been alerted. Please do not call or come to the schools. All students are safe.”

Mello said police “did a sweep” in the area the message was found, but nothing was discovered and police determined it wasn’t a credible threat.

Everyone was allowed back inside
within 30 minutes. School officials sent an update to parents 16 minutes after the initial one, advising that no bomb was found and that “students and staff have reentered the building and will resume their normal schedule.”

The threats’ lack of credibility led to officials’ decision to not evacuate the school when the second, very similar threat was found on Friday, Mello said.

But Robin Bujnowski, whose son is a junior at HBHS, said he asked to go home Thursday because he didn’t feel safe.

“I had to dismiss my child because he did not feel safe at school,” she said. “He said they were evacuated for roughly 40 minutes, but he never heard sirens … he was not convinced the school could have been searched thoroughly so quickly. Another parent I know, her daughter said the same thing.”

Bujnowski called the school, but said she got no answer. When she arrived to dismiss her son, four girls came in the office, saying they were anxious after what happened and had gotten their parents’ OK for dismissal.

“But they told them no, a parent has to come to the office to dismiss them,” Bujnowski said. “I told (the girls) they’d better call their parents because nobody was answering phones at the school.”

Neither HBHS Principal Cynthia Matte or SAU 41 Superintendent Susan Hodgdon could be reached Tuesday, probably because of school vacation week.

Bujnowski said many students remained anxious even after officials declared the building safe and gave the OK to go back in. “Nobody said a word about it to them,” she said. “That made a lot of kids uneasy; they had no idea what was going on.”

She said the scarcity of information from the school continued with Friday’s incident. “They never evacuated the school … they sent emails at 1:44 p.m. saying all was well after another threat.

“I am concerned (that) they are not offering any information,” she said of school officials. “How could they not evacuate (Friday) and take this risk?”

But Mello said all officials agreed the lack of credibility was so evident that there was no need to evacuate Friday.

“When you look at the totality of it, these were not at all credible,” he said. “When we determined that Thursday’s wasn’t credible, we felt comfortable in making the decision we did on Friday.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached
at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@
nashuatelegraph.com. Also,
follow Shalhoup on Twitter
(@Telegraph_DeanS).