Crime & Courts

Woman arrested in Payne Elementary School bomb threats

Six times this month — and nine times since November — a bomb threat was phoned in to Payne Elementary.

Following district policy, roughly 300 students and staff would evacuate the school at 1601 S. Edwards, standing outside for anywhere from 15 minutes to nearly an hour while police and school security staff searched for explosives.

The ordeal finally came to an end Tuesday morning, when the latest bomb threat was called in at 11:24 a.m.

For the first time since the threats began coming in, students and staff stayed put.

"That's only because our school safety services told us, 'We know where this call's coming from,' " district spokeswoman Susan Arensman said.

Police didn't have to go far to find the suspect: She was watching the school building from across the street, Arensman said.

The 27-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of making nine bomb threats to Payne since November. No devices were ever found.

Police officials were saying little about the case Wednesday.

"It was a lengthy investigation before it got to the arrest," Capt. Guy Schroeder said. He said further investigation will take a while as well.

Two bomb threats were called in April 9, according to police records. The first came in at 11:15 a.m., the second at 1:12 p.m. Other bomb threats were called in on April 20, April 13, April 8, Feb. 19, Jan. 13 and Nov. 24, records show.

"It was very disruptive to the school day," Arensman said. "It did affect the learning process and the regular day-to-day operations."

So many bomb threats came in this month that school officials brought members of the district's crisis team to Payne, near Harry and Meridian, a couple of times to talk to students.

"Just to reassure them that this is a safe place," Arensman said.

Students carried a note home in November alerting parents of the first bomb threat. They took another home Tuesday that announced a suspect had been arrested.

"We're just really thankful that the police were taking this very seriously, along with our safety services people," Arensman said.

On Wednesday, Payne's students and staff could relax.

"We're trying to get back to normal," Arensman said.