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Bomb scare prompts evacuation

By Brandon Evans | Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A bomb threat at Devon Energy’s natural gas processing plant in Bridgeport Tuesday morning prompted a partial evacuation of the site and closure of U.S. 380 in front of the plant for much of the day while investigators searched for clues.

The threat was found scrawled at a work area on the plant site. Devon is in the midst of a major construction project and has several outside companies contracting at the plant. It was in the area where these companies are working that the note was found Tuesday between 8 and 9 a.m.

READY FOR ACTION - Emergency responders gather at a the command site near the Devon Energy natural gas processing plant in Bridgeport moments after a bomb threat was reported. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

READY FOR ACTION – Emergency responders gather at a the command site near the Devon Energy natural gas processing plant in Bridgeport moments after a bomb threat was reported. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“It was a vague message that alluded to the fact that there was a bomb on the property,” said Captain Kevin Benton with Wise County Sheriff’s Office.

That agency, along with the Bridgeport Police Department, Denton Bomb Squad, Bridgeport Fire Department, Wise County Medics, Texas Department of Public Safety and Federal Bureau of Investigation all responded to the scene. The WCSO’s mobile command unit was stationed in an empty parking lot at the intersection of U.S. 380 and Farm Road 1658. The highway was shut down in both directions between FM 1658 and County Road 3504 on U.S. 380 in an effort to prevent any traffic from passing in front of the plant.

Investigators combed through the maze of machinery.

“It’s a slow, methodical process,” said patrol lieutenant Art Ferguson. “They are having to go through the entire plant and interview some of the construction workers.”

“We had personnel from the Denton Bomb Squad on standby,” Benton said. “But after an exhaustive search we didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.”

The scene was finally cleared by 3 p.m., and the highway opened back up. The sheriff’s office will continue to investigate in an effort to find out who was responsible for the threat, Benton said. Security cameras are being reviewed, and crime scene investigators will continue to review evidence and interview those on the scene.

Wise County Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to $1,500 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the threat. Anyone with information can contact Sgt. Clint Caddell at 940-627-5971, ext. 236, or email caddellc@sheriff.co.wise.tx.us.

Charges could range from simple terroristic threat to a felony charge associated with disrupting oil and gas production.

It was almost 16 years ago when four people associated with a white supremacist group were arrested for hatching a plot to bomb the same gas processing plant, then owned by Mitchell Energy. The group planned to bomb the plant, and while law enforcement from throughout the county was busy there, they planned to rob a bank in Chico.

In light of that incident in April 1997, area banks were contacted and told to be on high alert Tuesday morning.

Devon’s Bridgeport plant is one of the largest such facilities in the nation. It can process up to 50,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids. The scare did not shut down production, as the company kept employees on site to continue running the plant while investigators searched the grounds.

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