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Link between Washington County bomb threats, bank heist probed

| Thursday, May 23, 2013, 12:19 a.m.

Law enforcement agencies are investigating whether a Wednesday morning bank robbery in Washington County was related to two school bomb threats.

“The million-and-one-dollar question is, ‘Is there a connection?' ” said Southwest Regional police Chief John Hartman. “It would defy logic to believe three incidents like this in such a small community wouldn't be. So we are looking into it.”

At 9:30 a.m., Bentworth School District officials notified police that they had received a bomb threat at the high school. Public safety officials were conducting a car-crash safety drill, Hartman said.

Police, fire and emergency response workers responded to the bomb threat, he said.

About that time, someone notified police that a PNC Bank branch in Bentleyville had been robbed.

“We flooded the area,” Hartman said.

Soon to follow was a report of another bomb threat at California Area High School.

Agents with the Allegheny County Bomb Squad and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the threat at Bentworth High School. California police and Washington County Emergency Management answered the call at California Area High School. Police found no bombs and officials closed both schools for the day.

Hartman said he did not know how much money was stolen.

Police are searching for a white male with thin build, wearing a black sweatshirt, jeans and black combat boots. He displayed a 9mm pistol and cleaned out all teller drawers before escaping eastbound on Interstate 70 in a black Dodge Charger, police said.

“Do I feel like we will be able to determine who did this? Yes,” Hartman said. “I have no doubt.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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