City receives bomb threat

Three city courthouse buildings were evacuated after the New Haven Police Department received a bomb threat in a phone call Wednesday morning, New Haven police spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said Wednesday.

Winchester said city police, as well as state and federal marshals, evacuated all three courthouse buildings because of the nonspecific nature of the phone call. The caller only made a general reference to bombing a courthouse.

“[The threat] came from a pay phone in New Haven,” said Winchester, who added that the identity of the caller remains unknown.

The call was made to the local 911 number at 9:04 a.m. and routed — in accordance with normal bomb-threat procedure — to the police department a minute later, Winchester said.

Winchester said authorities searched the floors of the three buildings — the Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse at 141 Church St., the New Haven County Courthouse at 235 Church St., and the Connecticut Superior Courthouse at 121 Elm St. After a search for explosive devices, the buildings were cleared for reentrance by midday.

“They do what they call a sweep, which means they go into all the rooms to look for some sort of device, and once there’s no device they clear the building to let people back in,” Winchester said.

Lisa Bull, New Haven spokeswoman for the FBI, said the agency responded to the threat along with the other local agencies.

Tara Blumenstock, an attorney for Esty & Buckmir whose building was evacuated, said she was surprised by the number of people she encountered while waiting to reenter her office to begin a delayed business meeting.

“I’ve seen people I haven’t seen in two years an hour-and-a-half into the bomb scare,” Blumenstock said. “There’s been a number of ambulances coming through, [and] officers with mirrors and dogs.”

Police officers used mirror devices to examine the underside of furniture in the buildings while searching for potentially dangerous devices.

Judicial Branch Communications Manager Rhonda Stearley said she estimated that the bomb threat caused more than 202 employees to evacuate the buildings.

“There are 79 Judicial Branch employees on 121 Elm St,. and 123 employees on 235 Church St., but those numbers don’t include staff who work for other state agencies, such as prosecutors and public defenders, so the numbers would be higher,” Stearley said.

Bridgeport attorney Charles Fleischmann, who was in New Haven on business, said he was weary of waiting outside after having been told to evacuate.

“The alarms went off, the clerk said there was a bomb scare and we had to leave the building,” Fleischmann said.

But Blumenstock said she was not informed of the reason behind the evacuation when she was told to exit the building.

Blumenstock said she saw about 500 people walking out and waiting by the courthouse buildings.

“I guess the interesting thing is that there’s no discrimination — the lawyers are out here, the judges, the clients, criminals and the general public,” Blumenstock said.

— Staff reporter Will Sullivan contributed to this report.

People crowd the entrance of the New Haven County Courthouse after a bomb threat Wednesday morning. The scare lasted nearly three hours and forced the evacuation of about 500 people from the city’s three courthouses.
Philip Rucker
People crowd the entrance of the New Haven County Courthouse after a bomb threat Wednesday morning. The scare lasted nearly three hours and forced the evacuation of about 500 people from the city’s three courthouses.

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