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Box of pamphlets sets off Newnan bomb scare

By BONNIE HESTER
Intern for The Citizen

Downtown Newnan saw a flurry of activity around the old courthouse on the square Wednesday as law enforcement investigated a possible bomb threat which turned out to be a false alarm.

According to Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager, at approximately 8:20 a.m. June 11, an employee entering the old courthouse spotted a suspicious package on the ground just outside the west entrance. The employee informed the deputy on duty inside the courthouse, who in turn notified the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff and his deputies, as well as Newnan’s police and fire department, quickly arrived on the scene and began to block off the square. Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows and Sheriff Yeager approached the package just closely enough to determine that it was a small plain cardboard box, folded closed at the top, and had no distinguishing marks or labels to indicate its purpose or contents, Yeager said. They then contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), who agreed to cordon off the area and send a robot capable of safely examining the package, the sheriff said.

While waiting for the GBI to arrive, law enforcement officers evacuated the courthouse and surrounding buildings as well since, as Yeager explained, “If you can see the package, it can see you … you can’t be too careful.”

Additionally, deputies rerouted traffic one block east and one block west from the square to protect motorists from the potential threat.

At about 9:30 a.m., Yeager said, the GBI arrived and deployed a remote-controlled robot which was able to open the package, allowing investigators to peek inside. It turns out the box contained nothing more dangerous than a delivery of paper brochures meant for the Coweta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), which is located inside the courthouse.

Following this discovery, the area was cleared and back to business as usual by a little after 10 a.m., Yeager said.

According to the sheriff, follow-up with the CVB revealed that such drop-offs of brochures had occurred before but were rare, and that it was unusual for a box to be delivered without markings of any sort. To ensure that this situation does not reoccur, the county is contacting the distribution company responsible for the delivery of the papers to request that all future deliveries to the courthouse be clearly labeled.

Yeager commented on the reasoning behind the response that law enforcement chose to employ in this situation, referencing last week’s attack on the Forsyth County Courthouse by a lone gunman with explosives. He noted that “in light of what recently happened in Atlanta…you’ve got to take those precautions” and that he felt it was fortunate the incident was resolved without injury to human life or property.

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