Bomb Scare Empties SMC Library

At roughly noon yesterday, a calm announcement was relayed over the Santa Monica College Library PA system. Students were told to immediately pack their belongings and evacuate the building.

This was not a drill. But it was nonetheless coolly and quickly executed.

A possible bomb threat was underway.

The police reacted quickly to ascertain the nature of the unattended bag. With the help of a bomb-sniffing dog, it was concluded that there was no threat.

Angelica Thomas, a second year SMC student, said that during the evacuation she felt, "confused and lost but safer after being evacuated."

Jake Coronel was seated in the third floor of the library, adjacent to the study rooms, working on his laptop. A few seats away the unattended bag was locked to a chair.

An unidentified student who noted the black luggage carry-on backpack had been left unattended for quite a bit of time spoke with the library staff. The staff then notified Sergeant Jere Romano of the Santa Monica College Police who quickly arrived on the scene.

Sergeant Romano asked students to move back as he checked the bag with a gloved hand. Romano deemed the bag suspicious because of its two locks, one a Kryptonite U-shaped bicycle lock attached to a chair, another a pad-lock on the top of the backpack.

At 12:17 p.m. Officer Hernandez attempted to disperse students who were gathered outside the library doors and stairs. "Go get something to eat. They probably found a rat," she said. The library will be reopened in a little while."

However students remained gathered around the solid concrete building that, as Romano stated, "has withstood many earthquakes," and would have, in all likelihood, been left unmoved by any other disturbance.

Library staff and police remained tight-lipped. Juan Rojas, a student who was unaware of the situation, had been studying for an upcoming test in the library. He said, "I'm going to wait. They brought in dogs, someone probably just found drugs or something."

At 12:32 p.m. the library staff was allowed back into the library. And soon thereafter the dog was escorted out.

According to Romano the dog did not "hit-on," (bark at or stare at) the package. In fact the dog did nothing, a sign that no bomb was present.

By 12:38 p.m. Mona Martin, the library director allowed students back into the library. She confirmed that an unattended bag had been left locked to a chair, and its contents including a laptop and textbooks were harmless.

The owner, as of yesterday, has yet to be identified. Given that the library does not have cameras in the particular area of the library, surveillance of the front entrance will have to be done to verify its owner.

Romano noted that many unattended backpacks can be found around campus throughout the day. Romano reiterated that what made this backpack suspicious and unusual was that it was locked to a chair.

Additionally, had their been a more credible threat, evacuation would have occurred without approaching the threat, the fire alarm would have been pulled and emergency exists would have been opened.

Fortunately no such credible threat was found, and by 12:40 p.m. the threat was cleared and business at the library was back to usual.

Precautions are necessary because the city of Santa Monica, and the Santa Monica Pier in particular, is on a terrorist watch alert. Recent bomb scares at the University of Southern California, a pipe bomb found at Pierce College in February, as well as threats on the East Coast have left authorities weary.  

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