By Kevin Wilson
A bomb scare caused the evacuation of two Eastern New Mexico University residence halls on Thursday, but no explosive devices were found.
“What happened was ENMU police saw a suspicious vehicle and they called us with a mutual aid request,” said Airman 1st Class Jason Marquis of the 27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office at Cannon Air Force Base. “The dogs alerted on something in the car. From there, they set up a perimeter and contacted the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.”
Exactly what circumstances initially led to the suspicious vehicle report were not clear on Thursday. Officials said a police report with additional information could be ready for public inspection today.
Residents of the Bernalillo and Lincoln residence halls were evacuated from their rooms for more than three hours as a safety measure.
Officials with the Portales Police Department, Portales Fire Department and university police responded and kept a perimeter around the residence halls. The vehicle in question was located on the parking lot of Bernalillo Hall, along 18th Street.
University police directed information requests to Ronnie Birdsong, ENMU’s vice president of university relations.
“We put out a university broadcast announcement to notify everyone at the school,” Birdsong said. “As well, the residence halls were blocked (off) and checked room to room.”
Birdsong said each college’s dean was notified of the incident, and some chose to send an employee to address each class about the event. Housing staff, under the supervision of authorities, checked for students still in the halls after an evacuation about 10:30 a.m.
“I had been sleeping for about an hour since it started,” said freshman Jerrid Williams, a Lincoln Hall resident. “My alarm clock was going off, the (hall’s fire) alarm was going off. What it took to wake me up was (a housing employee) jiggling my doorknob.”
Williams and other students spent part of the afternoon outside on the sidewalk across from Lincoln, until there was deemed to be no explosive. Residents were allowed back into the halls soon after 2 p.m.
“I was really impressed with the orderliness of the operation and with the way the students responded,” Birdsong said. Birdsong did not know details regarding the vehicle in question, or if the incident could be related to Monday’s bogus bomb threat at the Roosevelt County Courthouse.