Monday bomb threat disrupts judicial center, courthouse

Apr. 30—Being aware but unafraid is how county employees reacted to a bomb threat Monday morning at the Crawford County Judicial Center in downtown Meadville.

"I was concerned, but I wasn't scared," said Brittany Waid, an employee at the center.

"I was in Courtroom 1 and everything was under control," she said of the building evacuation order given at 9:12 a.m. "We've got an excellent Sheriff's Office and Meadville Police Department."

The Crawford County Sheriff's Office is in charge of courtroom and building security at the judicial center, which houses the county's courtrooms and judicial and court-related offices. The Sheriff's Office also is in charge of building security at the neighboring Crawford County Courthouse.

The courthouse, located across East Center Street from the judicial center, was put in a lockdown but wasn't evacuated.

Waid, a clerk with the Clerk of Courts Office, was one of around 150 people in the judicial center's Courtroom 1 when the Sheriff's Office issued the evacuation order via the building's public address system.

All judicial employees as well as public in the building were evacuated for about two hours as a precaution.

No injuries were reported and no evidence of a suspected bomb was found either inside or outside the building, Sheriff Dave Powers told The Meadville Tribune. The judicial center reopened to the public at 11 a.m. Monday as did the courthouse, with both buildings resuming normal operations and no other incidents reported.

Courtroom 1 was near capacity Monday morning as it was one of two courtrooms in use for the call of the May criminal trial list. Held about two weeks before a trial term, the call of the list reviews the status of unresolved criminal cases with defendants and their attorneys.

"Everything was very organized," Clerk of Courts Patricia Wetherbee said of the smooth evacuation of staff and the public. "It wasn't scary."

Heidi Shiderly, court administrator, agreed.

"There's always a level of concern, but I was not scared," she said.

Employees at the courthouse, too, weren't fazed by the incident.

"I felt safe and trusted with the judgment of the Sheriff's Office," said Amana Bruce, a clerk with the Crawford County Treasurer's Office.

"With today's world, there is a real concern with any possibility, but now there's a different level of (enhanced) security," said Joe Galbo, chief assessor with the Crawford County Assessment Office.

The evacuation of the judicial center and lockdown of the courthouse was a precaution after a bomb threat was phoned in to Crawford County Court of Common Pleas judicial offices at 8:59 a.m., Powers said.

The judicial secretary who answered the call then phoned the Crawford County 911 Center, he said. The 911 Center contacted Meadville Police Department who contacted the Sheriff's Office.

As people were exiting the building, Meadville Police Department already had officers and police vehicles in place to assist the Sheriff's Office in preventing any additional public access to the building until it was cleared.

Powers said both buildings are checked both inside and out prior to closure at the end of each work day and again each morning prior to opening them to the public, Powers said.

Attempts had been made to get services of a bomb-sniffing dog from area police agencies, but one from Erie was unavailable due to illness while another from Warren would have taken several hours to arrive, according to Powers.

A review of interior and exterior digital security camera footage from all cameras at both the judicial center and courthouse was done. The cameras are motion activated and only two authorized persons had entered the judicial center during the weekend, the sheriff noted.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at