Sgt. Stan Ancell, with the Grand Junction Police Department Bomb Squad, prepares to X-ray a suspicious cooler left outside the Moffat County Courthouse at about 6:30 p.m. Monday while wearing a special blast suit. He was the first person to open the cooler and show other officials at the scene that it did not contain explosives.

Photo by Collin Smith

Sgt. Stan Ancell, with the Grand Junction Police Department Bomb Squad, prepares to X-ray a suspicious cooler left outside the Moffat County Courthouse at about 6:30 p.m. Monday while wearing a special blast suit. He was the first person to open the cooler and show other officials at the scene that it did not contain explosives.

Courthouse bomb scare turns out to be false alarm

'A sign of the times'

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Craig Fire Chief Bill Johnston, left, and detective Ken Johnson, of the Craig Police Department, discuss the scene at the Moffat County Courthouse shortly after the initial discovery of the cooler. Officials immediately taped off a wide area around the cooler on the west side of the courthouse and blocked Barclay Street to all through traffic.

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A look inside the red cooler, which raised reasonable suspicion for local law enforcement to close the Moffat County Courthouse, a local business and two city blocks for more than five hours Monday.

A red cooler filled with an empty soda can, tools, spoons and an open bag of sunflower seeds stopped all activity at the Moffat County Courthouse for more than five hours Monday afternoon.

The episode began about 1 p.m. Monday, when local law enforcement responded to calls from courthouse security about a suspicious package - the red cooler - outside the building's southwestern entrance.

The threat of a bomb lasted until about 6:30 p.m., when the Grand Junction Police Department Bomb Squad determined the cooler did not contain an explosive.

After learning there was no threat, officials said it's a shame that today's law enforcement and emergency service workers have to waste time on incidents like Monday's.

The contents of the box, officials said, was irrelevant.

"The worst part about it, it's no more than a sign of our times," said Mike Anthony, a deputy with the Moffat County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Tim Jantz said people should have more common sense than to leave objects outside government buildings.

"That was idiotic for someone to leave their lunchbox outside a door at the courthouse like that, especially on a day when a murder trial was supposed to start," said Jantz, referring to the original start date for Terry Hankins' trial, which was continued until Aug. 10.

"In this day and age, nothing can be taken for granted. Just like in airports, people are told not to leave their belongings laying around."

He added that he is proud of the work done by everyone involved in the scare, and he wouldn't ask them to do anything different if it happened again, even though it was a false alarm.

"I've already been approached by two people asking if this was all too much, if it was ridiculous," said Jantz, shortly after the bomb squad opened the cooler. "I don't think people's safety is ridiculous. What's the risk if something had been inside that box? What's someone's life worth?"

Sheriff's Office and Craig Police Department officials maintained a 200- to 300-foot perimeter around the cooler until the Grand Junction Bomb Squad arrived on scene that evening.

Local officials closed portions of Barclay and School streets near the courthouse all afternoon, and they also closed Victory Way for about 20 minutes while the bomb squad investigated the cooler.

All in all, Jantz said the combined operation took himself, two other Sheriff's Office units, two courthouse security personnel, five Police Department officers, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta, a Craig Fire/Rescue truck, Craig Fire Chief Bill Johnston, an ambulance crew from The Memorial Hospital, Moffat County Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Soos and three Grand Junction bomb technicians.

The Grand Junction Police Department and local law enforcement have a mutual aid agreement, so Jantz said neither the county nor city should have to pay for their services.

Sgt. Stan Ancell, of the Grand Junction bomb squad, was the man who X-rayed the box and then opened it for everyone to see.

Although it turned out safe, he couldn't help but be a little nervous as he first approached the cooler.

"I think you'd be foolish not to be," Ancell said.

The courthouse was not the only building closed for the afternoon. Sheriff's Office and Police Department officials used the nearby Lube Plus parking lot as a base of operations during the episode.

They said it was a safe distance from the cooler and also offered a clear line of sight.

Mickey Green, who owns Lube Plus, said his business probably lost about $1,000 from being closed.

"But it upsets me more that I had to send my five employees home," Green said. "With their families and everything, that money's important."

County offices and Lube Plus will open at the normal times today and expect to return to business as usual.

Comments

Marvin 5 years, 6 months ago

THANKS AGAIN CRAIG PD! now we can officailly declare the city RID of deadly lunchboxes!!!!! another lunch time dissaster properly adverted! ***now for a friendly tip***** How to creat a NON emergency

start with 1 dirty lunch box, add a portion of bologna sanwidge, a pinch of lays 2 parts public paranoia and top that off with extreme police boredom and walla!

an walla! a news story worthy of the renound CRAIG DAILY PRESS!

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Joanna Hatten 5 years, 6 months ago

Shame on you Marvin! These days you can never be to sure. I say BRAVO to the PD for making public safety its first concern....P.S. before you spout off grab your dictionary.

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LarrySpalding 5 years, 6 months ago

Oh come on Marvin. Give these the PD a break! It takes a brave man to walk up to a suspected high explosive device, which might not only be rigged to explode at a specific time, but explode when or if it is tampered with. You would have had a lot to say if the "lunchbox" had been ignored and exploded when your kid touched it. Let's not forget that there ARE people who would love to terrorize the citizens of this country. There is a "religion" out there that calls it's faithful to world domination through the use of force, through the use of bombs, murder and jihad, or have you forgotten?

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cag81625 5 years, 6 months ago

Gee, Marvin, how come I didn't see you trotting over there to open the thing up for all to see and avoid the whole fuss? Maybe the lunch bucket was yours?

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bullriderwife 5 years, 6 months ago

I agree...next time try spell check. It does wonders...

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GlacierDragon 5 years, 6 months ago

lol, rants do lose their punch when you use big words you can't spell. I hope they find the person who left the cooler there and and at the very least smack them upside the head for being stupid. It could have been left on purpose to cause all this trouble, though, in which case they need to be fined or jailed.

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lonelyone 5 years, 6 months ago

I say our L.E. did everything they were suppose to do. Kudo's to you all. I do disagree with some of the article tho, but it's not important and would even be knit-picky to even mention it. So why did I bring it up..........I guess cuz I can?? lol Anyway, I thank those of you who did your jobs. It might have turned out to be nothing but an icky lunch pail, but I think it was a good training exercise for the people involved too.

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PUSH2008 5 years, 6 months ago

Marvin, before you go off on how you think law enforcement should or shouldn't respond to possible life threatening situations, think about if you were the one inside the area where the threat is. Would you really expect law enforcement to blindly walk up and open the box in this day and age without first evacuating innocent bystanders (including you)? Have you been trained as a law enforcement officer or an emergency responder? Do you know what proper protocol is for such situations? You want to take chances with your life or someone elses?

If you want to make silly remarks, fine, that is your right! Take some time to think about what you are putting out for public review and comment!

KUDOS to the Craig Police Department, Grand Junction Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, and Emergency Management! You are all brave people! Thank you for your selflessness and thoughtfulness each and every day! God bless you all and THANK YOU!

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Marvin 5 years, 6 months ago

ok, so I type a BIT TOO FAST and my intsy-bitsy nubbers that I call fingers goes a little haywire from time to time! butt What is more funny than a LAME joke by yours truely? (ooopppsss did eye speil dat whitte?) reading how up tight and you silly people are. Cant a joke just be a joke? -even if its not spelled correctilllilly? and by the way, yes, I would have opened it if asked, but only if I can make off with the sunflower seeds....with how the economy is, those ARE worth an arm and a leg!

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Marvin 5 years, 6 months ago

oh, and glacier dragon (sick name BRO! I bet you LOVE rpg games!) your idea of jailing people who misplace or leave behind belingings is just the kind of thinking that the socialist obama administration is looking for. you should take that idea and run with it! really I bet you would get alot of support from the progressives! also out of curiosity, how long should a forgettful kid get in the slammer for leaving a teady bear at a park? I'm thinking 9-life.with your thinking it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine it to be stuffed with C4!

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ColoradoMom 5 years, 6 months ago

I just can't help to comment of this. I appreciate the PD and their concern for our community but then to have Sherriff Tim Jantz, the same one that I commending above, call the individual that accidentally left his or her lunch box outside an Idiot is uncalled for. When I look at this picture of this lunch box it very well might be the lunch box of a coal miner. As an employee of one of the local coal mines I see guys and gals leaving their "buckets" outside the office all the time for their "buckets" are dirty and it is the common courtesy to just leave it outside. STRICKLY SPECULATING if this person works at the same coal mine that I do then there is a great chance he or she just got off his or her 3rd 13 hour shift. Perhaps that person just got off the buss and walked to the court house to do what ever they had to do. Working 13 hours, they have 2 hours travel time that leaves 9 hours to do everything else that must be done and attempt to get some sleep. On top of that if perhaps this person does work at the same mine they are 1 week out from working nearly 2 months of 6 days per week. Our employees work hard this job is very physical. If perhaps the person that accidentally left their lunch bucket outside the court house is a coal miner I encourage Mr. Jantz to walk in his or her shoes for even just 1 weekend graveyard shift I think there would be other words coming from his mouth other than it was Idiotic thing to do.

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CDPTruthIsRare 5 years, 6 months ago

Hmmmm.......So the Muslims have invaded Craig, Colorado, according to Larry. Seriously though, in this same issue of the Craig Daily Press, there is a full page article about how our PD needs to be able to do the more imortant things, like go after drugs and drug dealers, and spend less time worrying about noise and animal complaints. It's funny though, disarming lunch boxes was not mentioned as a "time stealer" for the Craig PD. The absolute SECOND I heard this story on the radio, I laughed and said "It's going to turn out to be a teddy bear" Well, it was a luch box, but close enough. Any of you who think that ANYONE would take the time and effort to blow up the Craig, Colorado Court House are out of your minds. This whole story is ridiculous. Who in the heck is even worthy of being blown up? A judge who sentenced a random criminal? That ballif who gave you the stink eye? Or maybe it was the mean lady in the billing department? I've seen those Courthouse toilets in some disarray before, maybe someone had enough of stinky restrooms. This is paranoia at it's best. Here's what probably happened - Man goes to court before work. Man has lunch box, and is not allowed to bring it into the courthouse (It might be a bomb, after all.) Man sits lunch box on step, to grab after court. Later, man returns to find an entire bomb squad surrounding his lunchbox. Man backs away slowly, (Queue silly music here) and writes off his Sunflower seeds as a loss. There are some genuinely good officers in the CPD who really do help people, but more often than not, I find myself becomming more and more critical of them as a department. Is the guy who left the lunchbox on the courst steps an idiot, or is it the CPD who spent our tax dollars on this whole debaucle? You decide.

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oldsage 5 years, 6 months ago

Na.... When the owner returned for his lunch box he was ordered away by Tim Jantz (for his own safety) and when the owner attempted to explain that the lunch cooler was his, the owner was cut off mid-sentence and threatened with arrest if he did not comply with the "Official Law Enforcement Order" to leave the area. Well, if it was my box I would have walked away as ordered, and I would be waiting for the fool who called me an idiot, hoping that fool would falsely arrest me for following his orders. Little Timmy is full of himself and his own statements go along way in showing it. Way to go Timmy!

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WileyWapiti 5 years, 6 months ago

PD is there to protect and serve. PD took threat seriously, regardless of outcome. In summary - they did their job and nobody was hurt other than a little name calling... Pretty sure the math adds up - everybody wakes up to see another day on this one.

Thank you law enforcement for protecting us and keeping our safety in front of self service (seems like a few people forget to thank you from time to time!)

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GreyStone 5 years, 6 months ago

This brings back memories of The Andy Griffith Show ,sheriff in a fictional small community of Mayberry, North Carolina and an inept but well-meaning deputy, Barney Fife . Man I loved that show, NOW, I live in that fictional small community with all the real life characters.

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John Kinkaid 5 years, 6 months ago

Well said...... ColoradoMom

P.S. I know that the P.D. dog can detect drugs. I thought that it could detect explosives, too. He/She would have to. The airport dogs do.

We should all randomly leave old lunch boxes all around town. Hire Gomer, Goober and Floyd the barber to find them.

I do respect local law enforcement, but this was an error in judgement, unless there had been a specific credible threat.

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David Carrick 5 years, 6 months ago

I see...anyone serious about pulling off such a destruction/explosion will be sure to make a "specific credible threat" to let everyone know what to look forward to; and if that "specific credible threat" has not been made, then when such a destruction/explosion takes place, it will be just a figment of our imagination... Interesting...ignorant, but interesting!

I echo WileyWapiti!

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John Kinkaid 5 years, 6 months ago

So.... are we going to have a 100 yard no parking perimeter around public buildings? Where does prudence end and craziness begin?

Vigilant people are the best way to stop a wacko.

My lunch box is red, too. But the one in the paper isn't mine. I remembered to bring mine to work and it doesn't have sunflower seeds in it.

A semi trailer parked parallel right next to the courthouse.... now that would be suspicious.

Again: a sincere thank you to the men and women who are underpaid and still work to deter crime and bring criminals to justice.

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John Kinkaid 5 years, 6 months ago

Calling me "ignorant" does not advance your argument.

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greeneyedgurl 5 years, 6 months ago

I work at a bank and I work very close with the Aspen branch that had a Christmas package left in its lobby on New Years Eve. It was very much indeed a highly explosive bomb. There were many more found in town that night. Anybody recall this?? It's a small town, yeah its glorified Aspen but it's still a small town. I didn't find anybody telling the Pitkin County Sherriff's Department that they were over reacting to a Christmas present.

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lonelyone 5 years, 6 months ago

I don't think anyone over reacted. I know many people think "who in their right mind would want to bomb anything in Craig America?" Well you just never know and I think everyone who was involved did the right thing. I'm not sure Jantz's comments were called for tho and it shows him to be bit of a jerk, but other wise everyone did a good job.

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Sumarjn 5 years, 6 months ago

What a bunch of collective idiots. Jantz should be charged with false reporting and ran out of town on a rail.

Of course that would require a thought process IQ of at least 100, and from the above postings, that isn't likely to happen.

oldsage seems to be one of the few who has a clue. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ O' Timmy's neck was in the wreck, but Timmy had no fear, he saw a dead man next to him, and whispered in his ear:

"hi boys, hey boys, where do we go from here"!

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Blondi 5 years, 6 months ago

I believe that if the entire incident were not important, then the other law enforcement agencies who responded and helped would not have shown up. When things happen, certain rules have to be laid out and followed in proper order. I think Tim Jantz did a good job of protecting his town and you folks should be ashamed at how you are poking fun of the whole thing. I've known Sheriff Jantz for a good many years, and no, I don't always agree with him and have been upset with some of his judgements, but he is still the Sheriff. The former sheriff used to get ridiculed and beat up on also. Being a Sheriff is a thankless job. I truly think Jantz did the right thing in this case. Being in law enforcement means "looking for something out of place, or something that doesn't belong there!" So maybe it was an honest mistake, and someone just wasn't thinking when they left the cooler. Or if they left it there as a prank, they should have to pay for being stupid.

These things are not to be taken lightly in this day and age when there are so many mean and evil people lurking around waiting to hurt others. There are a couple posters in this forum who reek of hatred and bitterness and it oozes out every time they come along to leave a comment. People who know them personally know enough to steer clear of them. If push came to shove, I would not want these two anywhere near the situation at hand.

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Joanna Hatten 5 years, 6 months ago

Tim Jantz is the best sheriff this town has ever had! He takes his job seriously and genuinely cares about this community!! We are fortunate to have him.

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freeman 5 years, 6 months ago

WAS THE SUNFLOWER SEEDS SALTED OR REGULAR,,I WISH I WOULD OF FOUND THEM,,,THEY ARE SO GOOD ,,,,

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Sumarjn 5 years, 6 months ago

Blondi gets upset with the Sheriff''s judgements, but no one else can? Next: Sheriff arrests cooler owner for littering as suspect of found sunflower pits. No elgibility for bond until DNA tests are concluded on seed pits.

-The plot thickens as Gitmo opens up another cell!-

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whispering_rain 5 years, 6 months ago

Right now I don't have to many good things to say about the Moffat County Sheriffs Dept. We called them for a complaint about 2 months ago. After waiting almost 45 minutes a sheriff did come out this way, but could not find out house. We could see him and we even tried to wave him over but he turned around and left the area, I called the dispatcher back only to be told that she was not sure what sheriff responded to my call and it would be awhile before she could track who it was down to send him back to our house. We never did see a sheriff again that day and have never been called to see what our complaint was. So we have decided that it was a waste of our time to ever call for help if we need it from the good old boys club. I should have told told them that there was a shooting going on (which could have been going on they did not know) and then we would have the whole dept. out here. I am not impressed at all with any of the dept. And hope that we will never need their assists again because we know we will more then likely be ignored. As far as the courthouse deal, I thought it was to show what a great dept we have.. L I can not wait till the Kiwanis Play next year!

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PUSH2008 5 years, 5 months ago

For those who are not happy with the Sheriff - then run for Sheriff and show what you can do to improve the situation and the community opinion. By some of the postings on this story, everyone has better knowledge and judgment. Let just see what YOU can do!

I have to agree with one poster that negative people post negative things! Why? Do those people have anything positive to state?

If any citizen is unhappy with the current elected officials, they have an opportunity to speak up and be heard! They are even allowed to run in an election and if elected, make the changes they wish! But, until then, try and support those that are elected and are making those decisions and judgment calls.

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