ST. GEORGE – Police confirmed Tuesday that the device that caused the evacuation at Pine View High School Monday was a “homemade explosive device” left inside a backpack and the juvenile arrested in the incident has been charged with a first-degree felony related to the manufacture, possession or use of a “weapon of mass destruction.”
“After examining the device, bomb squad members indicated that if it had detonated; the device had the potential to cause significant injury or death,” the St. George Police said in a statement.
The backpack was left in the cafeteria of the high school during lunch where some students noticed it smoking. They alerted the resident school resource officer and faculty, which led to the school’s 1,100 students being evacuated to the football field for the rest of the school day.
The St. George Police brought in the regional bomb squad, operated out of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, to deal with the explosive device, as well as the FBI. Sheriff’s deputies handled traffic around the school and Jax, a bomb-sniffing K-9, was also brought in from Dixie Regional Medical Center.
“Based on our investigation we can confirm this was a failed attempt to detonate a homemade explosive at the school,” the police said in the press release.
The police executed a search warrant at the home of the suspect, identified as a juvenile male attending Pine View High School, where investigators found “materials consistent with the materials used to build the device.”
Additional evidence was found linking the suspect to last month’s incident at Hurricane High School in which the school’s outdoor American flag was replaced with an ISIS flag and the words “ISIS is comi” were spray-painted on the side of the school walls.
In relation to the Pine View bomb scare, the suspect is charged under the following section of the Utah criminal code:
A person who without lawful authority intentionally or knowingly manufactures, possesses, sells, delivers, displays, uses, attempts to use, solicits the use of, or conspires to use a weapon of mass destruction or a delivery system for a weapon of mass destruction, including any biological agent, toxin, vector, or delivery system as those terms are defined in this section, is guilty of a first degree felony.
Other charges may be pending, including those related to the Hurricane High School incident.
Students were allowed to leave school grounds around 2:30 p.m. while investigators remained on scene. Prior to that, officers located the suspect and questioned him as a person of interest. He was subsequently arrested and taken to juvenile detention Monday evening.
No one was harmed in the incident and no property was damaged.
“There were several factors that came into play yesterday which led to a positive outcome,” the police said. “First, we’d like to recognize and thank the students who notified faculty and the [school resource officer] of the suspicious backpack. Their immediate action played a large role in this incident ending with no injuries.”
The St. George Police Department also noted the school resource officer program between the police and the Washington County School District allowed the officer at Pine View High to respond immediately to the scene and call in the appropriate help.
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