CBC bomb threat suspect indicted by federal grand jury

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 10, 2013 

The case against a Finley man accused of calling in multiple bomb threats to Columbia Basin College to avoid taking a test will be handled in federal court.

Steven Eugene Brown, 52, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on one count of willfully making a threat involving explosive materials.

He allegedly made the calls July 18, which led school officials to shut down the Pasco and Richland campuses for most of the day while authorities searched for explosive devices. Nothing was found and the campuses reopened the following day.

Brown was arrested July 24 after police said they tracked a cellphone used to call in the threats. He was charged in Franklin County Superior Court with threats to bomb or injure property.

Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn told a judge Tuesday that Brown's case is moving to U.S. District Court. The indictment shows that Hultgrenn -- who in February was sworn in as a special assistant U.S. attorney -- will help prosecute the federal case.

He's expected to file documents Wednesday dismissing the Franklin County charge.

Online court records don't give a first-appearance date for Brown in the new case. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, with three years of supervised release.

Brown has a lengthy criminal history dating to at least 1989, including convictions for drugs, a domestic violence assault, driving under the influence, disorderly conduct and attempted theft, prosecutors said at an earlier Superior Court hearing.

He previously told a judge, in an attempt to lower his bail, that he has a wife and six children -- three still at home -- and will lose his disability payments if he's stuck behind bars.

According to Pasco police and court documents, a CBC employee took a call at 11:23 a.m. from a "middle-aged" man who said, "This is a bomb threat. Bomb is going to go off in the H Building and one other place."

The staff member called campus security, who then called police.

At 11:45 a.m., an employee at Townsquare Media in Pasco got a call from a blocked telephone. Townsquare Media operates several local radio stations.

The male caller told that employee, "There are two bombs located at CBC," documents said. "The first bomb is located in the H Building (and) the second bomb you will find after the first bomb is detonated. The first bomb is scheduled to detonate at 1 p.m."

Townsquare Media also called police, who evacuated both of CBC's campuses.

The break in the investigation reportedly came when police tracked down the phone number of a call that came into CBC around the time the threat was made to the college. Cellphone company records showed the same number was used to call in the threat to the media company, but the person first pressed "*67" so the number would be blocked.

Detectives talked to a woman who received a call from that number four minutes before the first threat, and she said her daughter is friends with Brown's granddaughter and she'd called to ask if she could spend the night, court documents said. The granddaughter lives with Brown, who was the only adult male present when the girl called her mom, documents said.

Investigators went to Brown's house and were told he was at CBC taking a placement test. He was not a CBC student at the time.

His sister said Brown is on disability and the test was part of the process for him "to go back to school to regain employment," court documents said.

CBC officials told police that Brown was scheduled to take the test in the H Building at 1 p.m. the same day the threats were called in. He'd been scheduled to take the test multiple times before and didn't show up, documents said.

The phone used to make the threat calls was registered to a "Jhon [sic] Smith." The only other information associated with the account was the last four digits, 5400, of a credit card number.

During a search of Brown's home, detectives allegedly found a phone with the same serial number and receipts for purchases made with a credit card ending in 5400.

Brown has been held in Franklin County jail on $150,000 bail for the bomb case, in addition to $50,000 for a Benton County warrant. He will be transferred into federal custody.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service