Longview Newspaper Rack Electronics Mistaken For Potential Bomb
By KENNETH DEAN Staff Writer
Traffic was stopped on Loop 281 and an eerie quietness was prevalent as a bomb technician in full regalia walked toward the "apparent explosive device" in a newspaper rack outside an IHOP restaurant Wednesday morning.
The technician from Barksdale Air Force Base dropped four quarters and then walked back to a safe distance to open the door with a string.
What had appeared to be a bomb by local authorities turned out to be the electronic insides of the newspaper machine, but before that could be determined IHOP, Luby's and several other businesses were evacuated and the loop was closed to all traffic.
Longview police spokeswoman Kristi Brian said a patron at IHOP saw what that person believed to be a bomb in the newspaper rack and called authorities.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bart Matthews, of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit, said his team was called by Longview police and dispatched to the scene to look at the "device."
"Since this was a coin operated machine we had to send someone down to put some quarters in the machine at that point, which we did. Then we remotely opened the door and saw that it wasn't a device but the inner workings of the machine," he said.
Matthews said it appeared someone had done maintenance on the machine and the electronic parts fell out of their usual place and were visible inside the machine.
"Someone saw it and it looked like it had wires and a battery so they made the call," Matthews said. "We're going to go in with the highest margin of safety possible. We are going to carry on with our procedure that it is a threat until we can determine that it is not."
FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also were called to the scene before it was cleared.
As the loop was reopened and while ATF and FBI agents along with police, fire and bomb squad members still were looking at the newspaper rack, patrons started pouring into the IHOP oblivious to the authorities.
The customers wanting to eat still had to wait a few minutes though, because all the employees had to walk across the parking lot from where they had been evacuated to go back to work.
An U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit was called in to Longview to examine and potentially disarm a bomb in a newspaper rack. Tthe rack in question stands outside an IHOP on Loop 281 in Longview. (Staff Photo By Kenneth Dean)