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Bomb threat at two Montezuma-Cortez schools; police search for suspect

A bomb threat Monday evening at Montezuma-Cortez High School and Montezuma-Cortez Middle School. No explosives were found.
A Utah man threatened Cortez police and said he hid bombs at Montezuma-Cortez middle and high schools

The Cortez Police Department is searching for a phone caller who threatened officers Monday night and stated that he had planted explosives in Montezuma-Cortez middle and high schools.

Police identified the suspect as a man from Utah.

The suspect called the Cortez Police Department Monday night, and initially threatened to kill all the city’s officers and their families.

According to a recording of the call played for The Journal, the man said he was equipped with assault rifles and explosives.

When dispatch asked where the items were located, the man said they were in about 20 locations, with three each at Montezuma-Cortez Middle School and Montezuma-Cortez High School.

“He’s not trying to threaten schools — he's trying to threaten police,” said Andy Brock, assistant chief of police.

Officers did not find any physical material in the schools that would be alarming in the schools, Brock said.

“Everything he talked about we looked into, and there was nothing there,” Brock said. “It was a pretty narrow reel from the beginning.”

The suspect made two other similar phone calls – one in Shiprock and one in Farmington – Brock said.

“I would imagine he’s not going to stay a free person for a long time,” Brock said.

Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 notified parents of the threat by email Tuesday morning.

“On Monday, September 13th, the district received a bomb threat. All schools have been cleared and everything is safe and secure,” said a copy of the email obtained by The Journal.

Superintendent Risha VanderWey issued a news release Tuesday afternoon, saying that a threat occurred at the high school after school hours and that police and the principal deemed the buildings safe.

She said the district was following safety protocols and procedures.

The high school’s annual “Peace Fuzz” game took place in the main gym, but the event had already ended by the time the threat was issued, she told The Journal.

“These are opportunities to learn,” she said.

A parent in the district contacted The Journal with concern that the initial message from the district did not specify which school or schools might have been affected, and that it came later than she liked.

“It's just really frustrating,” she said. “I mean, I know everybody's trying to do the best they can with the kids, but not keeping the parents contacted near instantly is a problem.”