Two explosives were removed near Richland’s Chief Joseph Middle School after a 10-minute lockdown Wednesday morning.
A school maintenance worker found two “questionable” devices on a grassy field near a tree, which just happened to be on school property. Officers arrived about 9:50 a.m. to investigate.
“One appeared to be an explosive device that had detonated,” said Richland police Capt. Mike Cobb.
The devices, which consisted of several bottle rocket fireworks wrapped in duct tape, were at the northwest corner of the campus, away from the school building at 504 Wilson St.
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The fireworks that exploded caused no damage, Cobb said. The others, which were contained at the scene, were taken apart at a remote range location. The police bomb squad removed both using a robot.
There were no remote devices attached to them.
“Usually if you find something like that, generally speaking, if it didn’t go off, it’s because there was an attempt made and it failed, or somebody (else) happened to interrupt what they were doing,” Cobb said.
Chief Joseph students and staff were not in any danger during the episode, Cobb said. There was also no indication that the school or students were a specific target.
“Their day just went on,” he said.
Crews from Hanford patrol sent in a bomb-sniffing dog to search for any other explosives in the area. They found nothing.
Marcus Whitman Elementary School was also evacuated about 2:30 p.m., but that was just for a drill, Cobb said.
“That’s part of the preparation for a live event like what happened today,” he said.
School administrators work with law enforcement and teachers in the building after they get recommendations to go on lockdown, said Steve Aagaard, communications director for the Richland School District.
“The staff makes sure that all the students are inside the classrooms where they belong,” Aagaard said.
Chief Joseph began the 2016-17 school year Tuesday with 765 students. They participated in drills designed to prepare them for any unexpected events, said Jon Lobdell, the school’s principal.
“Most of our students are familiar with what’s supposed to happen,” Lobdell said.
Several parents called in with concerns about their children during the bomb scare, with the phones “ringing off the hook,” Lobdell said.
Some had concerns that there wasn’t enough information available up front. Lobdell wanted to focus on meeting the school’s immediate safety needs, while keeping details on the event correct, he said.
“We got out as much information as quickly and as accurately as we could,” Lobdell said. “Trying to send out a half-factual or completely false report based on incomplete information while we’re trying to manage the situation is just not, to me, the best way.”
The school district has partnered with Richland and West Richland police for emergency preparedness drills for the past 15 years, Cobb said.
“That partnership doesn’t mean what the district can do for us or what we can do for them, it’s working together,” he said. “Cooperation and training exists in all of (the Tri-City) districts.”