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Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

Bomb threat pushes back first day of school at Westlake High

By Whitney Evans, Deseret News

Published: Tue, Aug. 19 8:45 a.m. MDT

 The front of Westlake High School is shown in a screenshot of Google Map's Street View. Classes were cancelled at Westlake High School after a bomb threat was called in to police.

The front of Westlake High School is shown in a screenshot of Google Map's Street View. Classes were cancelled at Westlake High School after a bomb threat was called in to police.

(Google Maps)

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Westlake High School was secured and cleared for activities after bomb threat caused officials to cancel classes Tuesday on what would have been the first day of school.

The school was open from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and extracurricular activities proceeded as scheduled. This is after an early morning caller informed authorities of a bomb at the school and his intention to open fire on anyone who defused the explosives.

Teams are working to identify the person who called police via Skype, reporting explosives and demanding $10 million to avoid detonation. As of Tuesday afternoon, the call was still under investigation, according to Saratoga Springs spokesman Owen Jackson.

Police received a call at 2:55 a.m. in which the caller said explosives were at Westlake High School. It started as an automated voice, but the caller became agitated and began talking himself.

He said he had planted 10 devices in the school and had left an offshore account number on a note under a chair in the school's auditorium, according to Saratoga Springs Police Chief Andrew Burton. If the money was not wired by 7 a.m., the caller said, he would detonate the bomb. And if anyone tried to deactivate the bomb, he told police he would show up at the school with guns and more explosives and open fire, police said.

Saratoga Springs police responded to the school, 99 N. Thunder Blvd. (200 West).

The caller knew enough about the layout of the school that police were concerned, Burton said. Two incidents in the past week added to the unease. First, police found an individual on the school's roof, and a janitor later found that ceiling tiles had been removed in the school.

Police locked down the building and started searching with the help of bomb-sniffing dogs Tuesday morning. Students began showing up for school at 6 a.m. and were turned away.

School officials canceled classes as a safety measure, according to John Patten, Alpine School District assistant superintendent.

By 8:45 a.m., police had searched the building and did not locate any explosives. That was not soon enough for school officials who canceled classes for the first day of school that were supposed to begin at 7:45 a.m.

Students will begin their first day of school Wednesday, Patten said.

Contributing: Shara Park

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

Twitter: whitevs7

Recommended
1. splitme2
West Jordan, UT,
Aug. 19, 2014

So, they got what they wanted . . . one more day of summer vacation! They will find who did this, they always do.

2. WabbitSeason
Newcastle, WA,
Aug. 19, 2014

I may get heat for this, I'm only partly serious about this.

I think the school should have simply delayed the school day for a few hours, extending it beyond the usual time the students are released from school to make sure a full day of school is had. Call the bluff.

3. Riverton Cougar
Riverton, UT,
Aug. 19, 2014

All the students are going to be ticked off when the school is now going to have to use one of the make-up days. Of course, from my experience only about 10-20% of the students actually go to school on those make-up days.

I think WabbitSeason is right; it looks like they had about 4 hours to verify the threat, which seems like enough time to check security cameras, but I must add in the disclaimer that I have no experience in these situations.

4. SLC Grandma
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 20, 2014

I wonder if there really was a note under a chair in the auditorium containing the offshore account number - probably not. The whole thing is pretty bizarre but definitely not something you can ignore, given the crazy mindset of some.

5. BU52
Provo, ut,
Aug. 20, 2014

I'm glad to hear the important things like football practice went ahead as scheduled.