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Courthouse evacuated after bomb threat

Photo Credit: COURTNEY VAUGHN - People file out of the Columbia County Courthouse Wednesday morning after an evacuation was ordered, following a bomb threat. The building was cleared and access was reopened within an hour.

The Columbia County Courthouse in St. Helens was evacuated Wednesday morning after a bomb threat.

Employees and visitors filed out of the courthouse just before 11 a.m. after officials asked everyone to clear the building.

Within minutes, St. Helens police started blocking vehicle access to the court.

County Commissioner Henry Heimuller was in his office at the courthouse, following a 10 a.m. Board of Commissioners meeting. A staff member entered and asked to meet with him privately. He returned and indicated the court received a bomb threat.

Heimuller later said the bomb threat was called in to state courts. A state court clerk notified others and evacuation started shortly thereafter.

Outside, people filled a small courtyard at Plaza Square.

“We're closing off the area and getting everyone evacuated,” Officer Jeremy Howell of the St. Helens Police Department said. He indicated a bomb squad was on its way.

Heimuller said law enforcement officials granted access back into the building by noon.

“A team went through and swept the courthouse for any hazards and determined there was no threat,” Heimuller said.

St. Helens Police Chief Terry Moss said his team will investigate the possible source of the call. Phoning in bomb threats is considered disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor crime.