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'All clear' given at Delaware VA hospital following bomb scare

Jun. 23, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
A bomb threat on the outskirts of the grounds at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center forced evacuation of three buildings, VA officials said June 23. Officials gave the 'all clear' after a search of the grounds.
A bomb threat on the outskirts of the grounds at the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center forced evacuation of three buildings, VA officials said June 23. Officials gave the 'all clear' after a search of the grounds. (Jennifer Corbett / The (Wilmington, Del.) News Jou)
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Wilmington VA officials pronounced the grounds of the hospital “all clear” Monday following a search for a possible bomb that ended at about 2:30 p.m.

The threat of a bomb on the outskirts of the Wilmington veterans hospital, received by State Police and passed to VA officials at 8:10 a.m., forced the evacuation of three outlying administrative buildings — two of which were occupied — while bomb experts and bomb-sniffing dogs searched the area, VA officials say.

The threat was declared over following a “thorough search of the grounds” by multiple police agencies. An “innocent item” was found that spokesman James Coty said “required further investigation.” It was deemed harmless, he said.

“State and local police have given the all clear sign,” said Mary Ann Kozel, acting medical center director. “Operations have returned to normal. The safety and security of our staff, patients, and visitors is our number one priority.”

Coty said that according to police, there’s a connection between the threat and the June 6 handgun-brandishing incident near the same area that was searched, located on the back western side of the center. Coty said that according to the VA police incident report, the suspect from that incident “may have left packages on the campus in the area where the incident took place.”

“From what we understand, the person who was arrested told his cellmate,” said Coty. “That person told another person, who notified Delaware State Police.”

On June 6, a man VA and court papers identified as Charles Jobe was spotted brandishing a handgun in the center’s west parking lot, allegedly pointing it “directly toward” the uniformed VA officers who responded to the scene. One of the officers fired two shots at Jobe, one of them striking Jobe in the hand, according to a federal criminal complaint. Jobe has been charged with assault on a federal police officer.

The FBI has declined to say where Jobe is being held.

Earlier at the hospital Monday, VA officials blocked off and evacuated what a spokeswoman said were outlying administrative buildings. No patients were in the area being searched, Kozel said. Coty said employees and staff were notified, but patients were not.

“We followed all the safety precautions to be able to close that area off to make sure that patients were safe, rather than sounding the alarm and causing undue alarm,” Coty said, describing the area being searched as a “remote part of the campus.”

State police bomb dogs arrived at about 11:45 a.m. to search the northwest quadrant of the west parking lot, near the fence line. The FBI and the Wilmington Police Bomb Squad are helping with the search.

Staff and visitors should stay clear of the area until the all clear is given.

“The safety and security of our staff, patients, and visitors is our No. 1 priority,” said Kozel.

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