UPDATE: Jellico woman arrested in connection with bomb threat at Williamsburg Plastics
Investigators work outside Williamsburg Plastics Thursday morning after a bomb threat was called in to the plant. The threat turned out to be a hoax.
Police arrested a Jellico woman Thursday afternoon who they believe phoned in a phony bomb threat to Williamsburg Plastics earlier in the morning — a threat that resulted in the evacuation of the plant, which was shut down for several hours.
Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell said that deputies obtained an arrest warrant for Amanda Johnson, 30, of Jellico, Tenn., charging her with second-degree terroristic threatening, which is a felony offense.
Chief Deputy K.Y. Fuson and Kentucky State Trooper David Lassiter worked along with the Jellico Police Department and arrested Johnson about 1:30 p.m. without incident.
Harrell said that Johnson will be brought back to Kentucky this evening if she waives extradition, and if not authorities will extradite her.
The case is still under active investigation, but officials don't believe that Johnson is a former plant employee. They are still trying to determine if she has some link to the plant, Harrell said.
Harrell said that police traced the telephone number from the bomb threat back to a Trac phone.
"Through conversations, we tracked her down," Harrell noted.
Members of the Kentucky State Police bomb squad and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents gave the "all clear" about 1:10 p.m.
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said that the area where two explosive sniffing dogs alerted had a box which once contained nitro gloves.
"The nitro gloves have a chemical odor that is associated with nitroglycerin," Bird explained. "This is why the dogs were alerting but it is clear that no explosive devices were found. Everything is good."
Williamsburg Plastics celebrated its 20-year anniversary in Williamsburg last year. The company produces appliance parts, and currently employees about 227 people.
Plant Manager Tom Anspach said he was relieved that authorities didn't actually find any explosive devices.
"It is very unfortunate that these kind of things happen," he said.
He admits that it was scary.
Between 8:55 - 9:00 a.m. Thursday, a female caller called the plant telling plant officials that she had planted a bomb.
Anspach estimated that between 90 and 100 people had to be evacuated from the plant Thursday morning.
"The main thing is get the people out of the building. Their safety comes first," Anspach said.
A Williamsburg Police K-9 and a Whitley County Detention Center K-9 both alerted to the presence of possible explosives near a box located on the plant's second floor, which resulted in the bomb squad being called.
Harrell said authorities take incidents like this seriously.
"We evacuated close to 100 people. This is their livelihood," Harrell said. "They are scared. The management doesn't know whether their livelihood is going to get blown up or not. We take it very seriously."
Harrell said it was just coincidental that a bomb threat was made and then there happened to be a box inside that had a chemical odor that caused the explosive sniffing dogs to alert.
Harrell said that authorities would be talking to the county attorney about pursuing restitution to cover the response and time of emergency responders.
The Whitley County Sheriff's Department, Williamsburg Police Department, the Whitley County Detention Center, Kentucky State Police, Whitley County Emergency Management, Whitley County EMS, state and federal bomb squads and firefighters from Goldbug, Williamsburg, Woodbine and Emlyn volunteer fire departments all responded and were on scene until the all clear was given.
In addition to the plant being evacuated, surrounding streets were also blocked off due to safety concerns.
"Williamsburg Plastics has a case for restitution but that is in their ballpark," Harrell added.
First shift at the plant had to be cancelled, but second and third shifts were expected to operate as normal.
Anspach said he didn't know yet whether first shift employees would be paid for the day.
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