Aztec, Farmington bomb threats investigated

Joshua Kellogg
The Farmington High School marquee is pictured on Thursday from the corner of North Sunrise Avenue and 20th Street in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – San Juan County law enforcement officials are investigating three bomb threats made to area schools in the last four days and want to remind the perpetrators about the seriousness of their actions.

Farmington High School was placed on lockdown for about 35 minutes Thursday morning after a bomb threat was discovered on campus.

The incident at Farmington High marked the third time this week that a bomb threat was discovered at a San Juan County school.

On Monday,Tibbetts Middle School in Farmington was evacuated, and students and staff members at Aztec High School were instructed to shelter in place on Wednesday after a similar threat was found.

All three incidents involved a threat written on a men’s restroom wall stating a bomb would detonate at a specific time.

Shawn Goodsell, Farmington Police Department school resource officer and bomb squad member, said the incidents are not a joke and are extremely serious.

“The seriousness and potential lives that are in danger, we can’t write that off. We have to investigate it to the fullest extent,” Goodsell said. “If we do obtain a suspect, we need to charge them to the fullest extent, as well.”

Farmington High Principal Tim Kienitz said a student discovered a bomb threat in the fine arts building at about 9:40 a.m. Thursday, and the school went into a preventive lockdown. A preventive lockdown or shelter in place alerts teachers to lock their classroom doors and continue teaching.

The message stated a bomb would detonate at 12:40 p.m. on Thursday, according to Farmington police spokeswoman Georgette Allen.

The Farmington bomb squad and school resource officers conducted a search of the campus and gave the "all clear" at about 10:15 a.m. Thursday when the preventive lockdown was lifted, Allen said.

Extra police were stationed on campus for the rest of the day, Allen said.

Goodsell said making a bomb threat constitutes a fourth-degree felony. A suspect could face a penalty of up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $5,000.

The Farmington Police Department is offering an award for identifying the suspects in the incidents at Tibbetts and Farmington High. The investigation into the Tibbetts incident is ongoing, and there are several leads being pursued, according to Goodsell.

Capt. Troy Morris of the Aztec Police Department said police are looking at several possible suspects in Wednesday’s incident. He believes a student or students were responsible. Morris said the students might not understand the level of stress they are causing for police, the school district and parents, along with putting people’s lives in danger.

“It stretches our resources and causes stress on the parents,” he said. “It can cause pure panic.”

Phil Valdez, Farmington Municipal School District assistant superintendent, said lockdowns related to bomb threats disrupt the education process for students, including taking away from classroom instruction and testing. Valdez said if students have any information related to the incidents, they can inform the school staff or the Farmington Police Department.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.