Police: Benedum, AVH, other bomb threats came from same phone number
Police continue to investigate bomb threats called into five establishments in two counties Thursday.
The threats were made from the same phone number, Allegheny County police said Friday .
The bomb threats were called in between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. to Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison, St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon, Benedum Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Pittsburgh, D’s Six Pax and Dogz shop in Swissvale, and Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township, Washington County.
No bombs were located, and all the businesses were deemed to be safe, county police said.
The calls came in during a short timeframe from a number with a Maine area code, police said. Investigators cautioned that this does not mean the calls actually originated from Maine. The caller was a man and appeared to be the same person on each call.
Some of the calls seemed prerecorded while others said that the caller seemed to interact during the call.
County detectives worked through the night to catalog the calls and plan to work with federal law enforcement agencies on the investigation.
FBI spokeswoman Catherine Policicchio said the agency is aware of the situation and ready to assist if needed.
There were 1,627 bomb threat incidents reported in 2018, according to the United States Bomb Data Center’s 2018 Explosives Incident Report. That was up 32% from 2017, and was the first noted increase in five years.
In all of those threats, no devices were actually found, a spokesman said.
In 2018, bomb threats were highest in December, 28%, with most incidents, 32%, happening on Thursdays, according to the report.
Actual bombings were far fewer. There were 289 bombings reported in 2018, down 14% from 2017.
Pennsylvania was among nine states that had 10 or more reported bombings that year. There were 24 in Pennsylvania, which came in behind Washington, 28, and California, 39.
There were 426 hoax device incidents reported in 2018, an increase of 10% since 2017. That’s in addition to the bomb threats, and where a device made to look like a bomb or explosive was found, the spokesman said.
Texas, California, Florida, Washington and New York had the most reported hoax devices.
Restaurant gets 3 calls
Dave D’Incau, a server at D’s Six Pax and Dogz, picked up the first of three calls they had with the person making the threats.
There were 50 to 70 people in the business at the time, and D’Incau had a hard time hearing him on the initial call.
“I thought I heard somebody say ‘bomb.’ I asked him to repeat himself and I thought I heard ‘bomb’ again,” D’Incau said. “The third time he said there’s a bomb — you got to find the bomb.”
D’Incau said he had a co-worker call 911. After the caller hung up, he called the number back by *69.
“The first thing he said was, ‘Did you find the bomb yet?’” he said. “I was surprised they answered.”
D’Incau said one of his coworkers picked up the second call from the person making the threat. The man asked again if they had found the bomb, adding that they didn’t have much time.
“I was wondering if it was set up for the second call to say that to put more terror in the people,” D’Incau said.
D’Incau said the caller was speaking slowly and in a low tone. The voice did not sound manipulated, but it seemed he was reading from a script.
“He wasn’t responding to what I was asking him,” he said. “It seemed like it was scripted, or they already knew what they were going to say.”
D’Incau said they got customers out safely but didn’t bother reopening after police cleared the building about an hour later.
“The fact that they called us is kind of weird to me. The whole thing is weird,” he said. “I think everybody handled the situation as well as they could given the circumstances. I’m very grateful nothing terrible happened and everybody is OK.”
At the Benedum, show goes on
At the Benedum, security quickly engaged with local police to evaluate the threat, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust spokeswoman Robin Elrod said.
“Upon investigation, Benedum security and local police determined the threat to be noncredible,” she said.
Elord said that last night’s performance of the musical “Hello, Dolly!” was not interrupted.
“Our security team is working with local police to keep the Cultural District safe,” she said.
At the hospitals
All three hospitals stopped accepting patients for a few hours.
Allegheny Valley Hospital received a bomb threat via a recorded voice that resembled a robocall shortly after 9:30 p.m., Allegheny Health Network spokesman Dan Laurent said.
Officials immediately notified Allegheny County’s bomb squad and placed the Harrison hospital on lockdown as a precautionary measure, in line with standard protocol, Laurent said.
Ambulance services were diverted while bomb squad officials did “a comprehensive sweep of the facility,” Laurent said. Medics were told to take emergency patients to other nearby hospitals, such as Forbes Hospital in Monroeville or UPMC St. Margaret hospital near Aspinwall.
Patient intake resumed once public safety officials said they found no evidence of a bomb. The lockdown was lifted by about 11:30 p.m.
Hospital in the AHN network occasionally receive bomb threats but it is not a common occurrence, Laurent said.
“You take all such threats seriously, you have to,” Laurent said.
St. Clair Hospital received a “non-specific bomb threat” from an unknown caller at about 9 p.m. Thursday, spokesman Bob Crytzer said.
“Out of an abundance of caution and in keeping with established policy, St. Clair Hospital was searched and no explosive devices were found,” he said. “St. Clair worked closely with law enforcement to ensure everyone’s safety.”
Crytzer said patient care was not disrupted and the hospital resumed normal operations by 11:10 p.m. Thursday.
Mon Valley Hospital was operating normally Friday morning after being shut down for about two hours Thursday night after a bomb threat was called in to the hospital operator around 9:30 p.m., spokeswoman Alyssa Zenobi said.
During that time, nobody could get in unless visible emergency care was needed or if employees showed their identification badges, she said.
The 200-bed hospital’s three buildings and parking garage were searched.
“No patients were affected yesterday. They were not escorted out or anything. They were never affected,” Zenobi said.