Police investigating bomb scare at Southland Park
Threat leads to temporary shut- down, evacuation at gaming facility over the weekend
Southland Park Gaming and Racing received a bomb threat overnight Saturday resulting in a temporary shutdown that lasted into early Sunday morning.
The West Memphis Police Department received notification immediately after a call came in to Southland around 11 p.m. The county bomb dog made a thorough search of the premises while the West Memphis police and fire departments ordered and coordinated an evacuation of the facility. Handled by Cpl. Briggs Keeton, Buster, the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department’s nationally-accredited four-year-old black Labrador bomb dog performed a sweep, and police issued an “all clear” less than two hours later after no evidence of any explosives were discovered.
With Southland being one of cities largest employers and attractions (as well as the biggest tourism tax producer in Arkansas) police took the threat very serious — and the perpetrator of the threat will face equally serious charges if arrested. Loss of time to the gaming center will be added to the number of responders and time for the vehicles and equipment according to police spokesman Captain Joe Baker.
“We had to evacuate Southland and we ran the county bomb dog through and did not locate anything,” said Baker. “The moral of the story, if we catch somebody, we’re going to treat this very seriously. Southland being shutdown, even for an hour, is bad for us (West Memphis) because they produce revenue for the city.”
The joint response of the sheriff’s office and city police and fire also add to the severity of the felony the hoaxer faces.
“Another way we will look at the charges is how many man hours were allotted to the whole ordeal,” said Baker. “It makes it a more severe class of felony.”
While police had yet to tally the bill, Baker indicated Sunday evening an active investigation remains underway. Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact the west Memphis Police Department
at (870) 732-7555 or Crittenden County Crime Stoppers at (870) 732-4444. All calls are kept confidential.
By John Rech