Bomb scare clears county courthouse
EAGLE ” Bonnie Wells was wondering how she was going to get home.
Wells and her son were sitting in a courtroom in Eagle when the word came: get out of the building.
The reason was a bomb threat phoned into the court office just before 2:45 p.m. Monday. The threat forced the evacuation of courtrooms, offices, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the county jail. Once the building was empty, it was locked up tight, while local police waited for bomb-sniffing dogs to be brought in from Aspen and Jefferson County.
Besides locking down the building, the courthouse parking lot was sealed off, too, meaning anyone parked there couldn’t leave in their cars.
“My husband’s truck’s up there with a bunch of tools in it,” Wells said. “I can’t leave it there. I’m not sure how I’m going to get home.”
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Monday afternoon’s temperatures in Eagle were hovering in the low 30s, and plunged quickly once the sun went down. To help those who had been evacuated keep warm, a handful of buses from the county’s ECO transit system were brought in.
Another handful of buses were used to take about 55 prisoners from the county jail to a “safe” location.
“They’re safe, and the public’s safe,” said Captain Bill Kaufman, the jail supervisor. “We had everyone out within a half hour.”
Evacuating the court office was a much quicker affair.
“We train for this,” said court clerk Stephanie Ellyas, who gave the order to get out. “This probably went better than the training did. We were all out of there in minutes.”
District Judge Richard Hart was hearing cases Monday afternoon. Local attorney Terry O’Connor said Hart said everyone who was there on bond would have their bonds extended another two weeks.
For O’Connor, like most of the rest of those evacuated, Monday’s bomb threat was a first. And the reaction to it was swift.
The Eagle Police Department was running the scene, and quickly shut down traffic up and down Chambers Avenue. Those who live and work west of the courthouse were allowed to get to U.S. Highway 6 on a temporary road created near the town’s shops.
“Once we got out, it was nerve-wracking,” Wells said. “At first we were all kind of milling around near the front door, but then they came out and told us to get all the way away.”
While court officers, attorneys and police suspected no bomb would be found, Wizard Nemerson said the evacuation was essential.
“In this day and age, these things should be taken seriously,” said Nemerson, an investigator with the local public defender’s office. “I guess we need to be inconvenienced like this. The one time we don’t do it will be the time it’s real.”
Vail Daily staff writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or at