No bomb found after threat near courthouses in downtown Charleston (has audio)
Police officers on Monday afternoon cleared a scene near the county and federal courthouses in downtown Charleston after fielding a report that a bomb had been placed in that area two hours earlier.
A county dispatcher fielded the threat around 11 a.m.
In the 911 call, a copy of which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a man asked for the Charleston Police Department. He identified himself as Mohammed and gave a phone number with an Upstate area code.
"This is very important," he said. "They're trying to blow up the courthouse or something down there."
The supposed bomber was in a "big white van," the man said before the phone line went dead.
An explosives unit and its bomb-fetching robot searched the area, but authorities gave an "all-clear" signal around 1 p.m. No bomb was found, police spokesman Charles Francis said.
Francis said the van was reportedly parked outside the U.S. post office at 83 Broad St.
No white van was seen in front of the post office, but one was seen closer to the U.S. District Court building at 85 Broad St.
The courthouse and the post office are separated only by a small parking lot.
An evacuation of the federal courthouse interrupted the trial of former banker Chris Latham and Wendy Moore, who are charged with hiring someone to kill Latham's wife.
After the proceeding resumed Monday afternoon, District Judge Richard Gergel said the threat wasn't related to the trial. Preliminary evidence showed, rather, that it was aimed at a state court proceeding, he said.
But the county judicial center at 100 Broad St., which is across the street from the federal buildings, was not evacuated during the ordeal, said Maj. Eric Watson of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. Deputies there monitored the situation.
Authorities had blocked the intersection of Broad and Meeting streets, but traffic was returning to normal early Monday afternoon.
The area near Broad and Meeting is saturated with city, county and federal government buildings, and bomb threats there happen occasionally.
In April 2011, for example, a bomb threat was phoned in to the public defender's office at 84 Broad St. Deputies' sweeps inside and outside the building came up empty.
Natalie Caula contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.