School bomb threats precede stick-up at Bentleyville bank
It's possible that those responsible for a robbery at the PNC Bank in Bentleyville Wednesday morning used phoning in a bomb threat at Bentworth High School as a distraction to lure the police away from the area of the bank.
Just after 10 a.m., police said a white male with a very thin build, wearing a black sweatshirt, jeans and black combat boots brandished a 9mm pistol and cleaned out all of the teller drawers at the bank.
The suspect appeared very pale and was wearing glasses and carrying a blue bag.
He was last seen fleeing east on Interstate 70 in a black Dodge Charger.
Minutes before the robbery, a bomb threat was called in to Bentworth High School.
The caller, believed to be an older female with a raspy voice, indicated a possible pressure cooker or backpack type bomb was involved, Hartman said.
Little did the caller know, the police, fire department, and emergency medical personnel were all ready at the school for a prom season, mock accident drill.
“The timing here is impecable,” Southwest Regional Police Chief John Hartman said. “We were all ready at the school for the drill.”
California Area High School also received a telephoned bomb threat around 10 a.m.
“There was no mention of a pressure cooker in the call,” California police Chief Rick Encapera said. “Actually, the bomb was never said to be at the school. The call said they were bringing the bomb to the school.”
Encapera said the borough's SRO (School Resource Officer) was at the school at the time of the call and immediately notified Encapera.
“My concern was stopping vehicles that were driving into the campus.”
Encapera said high school students were evacuated to the stadium adjacent to the building. They were later dismissed.
After 1:30 p.m., students were allowed back into the building to retrieve any personal belongings.
After school activities resumed after 3 p.m. with the school returning to its normal schedule today.
Encapera said middle school and elementary students remained at school for a normal day despite the threat. The building is located over the hill from the high school.
“The threat was specifically made against the high school,” Encapera said. “We wouldn't have left them in their building.”
An electronic bomb detection unit from Washington County was used throughout the school and nothing was found,” Encapera said.
Hartman and Lieutenant Steve Schwartz were in Greensburg for another matter when the threat was called into Bentworth and immediately headed back to the area.
“Minutes later, the robbery call came in,” Hartman said.
The bank was robbed in Nov. 15, 2011, by the “Nike hat bank robber.” In December 2012, Wesley Todd McCracken, 42, of Myrtle Beach, S.C. entered a guilty plea in federal court on charges stemming from 14 separate bank robberies, including the Bentleyville PNC branch.”
Hartman confirmed authorities are investigating whether the threats were directly related to the robbery.
“Are their suspicions? Of course,” Hartman said. “We don't have anything right now, though, that says that is the case. There's a possibility that it could be a perfect storm scenario, but it is odd that you have these two threats and an armed robbery within a small radius.”
Hartman said the FBI is handling the robbery case with Southwest Regional Police “actively assisting.” The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is assisting Southwest Regional officers with the threat investigation at Bentworth.
“We didn't know if these were separate events or connected,” Hartman said. “We worked the threat on the school so we conducted a search of the school, the exterior of the building, and all the vehicles outside.
“The phenomenal thing to watch is these different agencies working together in an orchestrated response. You have multiple badges with multiple skill sets working together.”
Everyone from the school districts, superintendent, teachers, EMS ... to the maintenance staff.
“Do I feel confident we're going to be address who did this?,” Hartman asked. “Yes I do. We have some good leads that we're working on. I'm very confident that we'll make an arrest.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Coal Center’s High Point restaurant for sale as owners ease into retirement
- Rostraver woman killed in apparent murder-suicide had reported abuse, court records show
- Police investigating shooting outside of Monessen bar
- Valley residents enjoyed holiday happenings over weekend
- New Manos Theatre opened in glorious fashion in Monessen
- Mon Valley communities put spotlight on Christmas season
- Monongahela grad inducted into state Sports Hall of Fame
- No tax hike anticipated in Fallowfield
- Tax rate to remain unchanged in North Belle Vernon