Just a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. this morning, St Johns County sheriff’s deputies received word and notified Historic City News alleging that a bomb had been planted in the Richard O Watson Judicial Center on Lewis Speedway; leading to an immediate evacuation of all courthouse personnel and civilians.
By 9:15 a.m., Sergeant Charles E. Mulligan told reporters that the entire judicial complex had been substantially emptied and law enforcement teams were on the scene.
Specially trained K-9 units were brought in to “sniff” each floor of the courthouse, including the courtrooms, anterooms and hallways. Both restricted and public areas were systematically searched during the next 30-45 minutes before the “all clear” signal was received.
Historic City News editor Michael Gold was at the courthouse as the evacuation was underway. Emotions from frustration to anxiety were apparent on the faces of clerks, administrative assistants, supervisors and those employees who come to work every day in a building known for provoking such tense emotions.
“This is a reminder that we live in a less-secure world,” one of the criminal court workers told Gold. “I think about it, but I can’t dwell on it.”
By 10:00 a.m., the majority of employees were on their way back to their desks — the lines backed up as everyone was given a precautionary screening by officers operating the metal detecting wands and checkpoints.
No one was spared the evacuation — even county and circuit judges were in the driveway, escorted by court bailiffs. “Better safe than sorry,” Mulligan told Historic City News. “We took the threat as credible and acted believing we had about 20 minutes to safely complete our mission.”
There were no injuries to county employees, law enforcement personnel or civilians reported.
Mulligan indicated that the investigation is fully underway as detectives piece together evidence in this crime. “Everyone’s safety was always our first priority,” Mulligan said.
Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer