Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Bomb! A Bomb! Oh My!

[Bomb Scare] When a bomb scare fills the streets of downtown Salt Lake City with people, it makes for an exciting Tuesday. But when it's covered by the very media involved, it's the same old story.

Apparently, all it takes to get people on the streets of down town Salt Lake City is … an empty bag, a couple choice words and a camouflage T-shirt. Well, at least an empty bag that may or may not contain an explosive device, such as a bomb. On this Tuesday afternoon, the Wells Fargo building was evacuated because of such a bomb threat. By 3 pm streets were filled with office workers and police officers, yellow tape and sirens. It was like a street fair without the food. A street fair with assault rifles and a bomb squad. Kind of like a street fair in, say, Columbia, except there they actually blow things up.

Soon after the news of the bomb threat had spread to the taco stand on State and 200 South and the Wells Fargo building and a half-block radius around it had been evacuated, the cameras came out and were rolling.

Behind the Gallivan Center, with the sound of a news helicopter overhead, they (the media, including me) encircled the police department’s spokesman and then began asking biting and incisive questions like, “Was he considered dangerous?” All Detective Jared Wihongi knew at the time was that it didn’t seem to be a bank robbery, the suspect may have been mentally unstable and he was wearing a camouflage T-shirt with a cartoon character on his chest.

It all started, according to Wihongi, at around 2:45 pm when a 30-something white male walked into the Wells Fargo building with a bag and said something like: “I have a bomb.” After police took the suspect into custody at gun point, the bomb squad came on the scene. Geared up for Armageddon, the armored crew dealt with the potential threat that was waiting inside of the building.

Among the crowd of cameras circling Wihongi were the folks from KUTV 2. They had come all the way from…their offices in the Wells Fargo building. They too had been evacuated. Luckily, though, they brought their trusty cameras and microphones with them when they ran from their desks. They were ready to catch all the action. So, I guess, the news came to them.

As for City Weekly and staff, apparently the width of Main Street and our windows were not enough to keep the staff safe from a potential explosion. So, we absconded to the safest place we could find, a bomb shelter of sorts: Port O’ Call.

By around five, after several beers, it was discovered that, yes, the bomb scare had been a hoax. Alas, the crowds that for once made downtown feel like, er, a city had been swept back into their air-conditioned high-rises never to be seen again. (Jonah Owen Lamb)

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