‘Hoax bombs’ discovered at West Virginia EPC church, local Federal courthouse


Washington Street in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bluefield, W.Va. (right) was cordoned off by law enforcement following a bomb scare on August 22. (photo credit: WVNS-TV 59News, Beckley-Bluefield-Lewisburg.)

A bomb threat in Bluefield, W.Va., on Monday, August 22, involved the EPC’s Westminster Presbyterian Church. Bluefield is at the southern tip of West Virginia, bordering Virginia.

Federal, state, and local law enforcement responded to a call at the Elizabeth Kee Federal Building in downtown Bluefield at approximately 9:30 a.m. Police reported that a man entered the federal building early Monday morning and claimed that he had an explosive device and had left another in the bushes outside the church. Westminster is about one mile south of the courthouse.

Much of the downtown Bluefield area was evacuated. Approximately two hours later, the first device was destroyed in a controlled detonation. The Bluefield Police Department deemed the situation “under control” at 12:00 p.m. Authorities X-rayed the device at the church and determined that another controlled detonation was unnecessary.

“We are all grateful to God that tragedy was avoided today and that these were not actual bombs,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “Westminster’s pastor, Jonathan Rockness, and I communicated today. He is very thankful that the situation ended up having much less impact than initially feared, and for the excellent collaborative work of law enforcement and other first responders. He and the Clerk of Session, Rod Gillespie, were also very thankful for the prayers of so many people around the country as the news of the day unfolded.”

The suspect, a 50-year-old local resident, is in custody and charged with two counts of possession of a hoax bomb in commission of a felony, one count of false reports concerning bombs or explosive devices, and two counts of threats of terroristic acts.

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EPConnection is the news and information service of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, a denomination of Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical, and Missional congregations. To the glory of God, the EPC family aspires to be a global movement of congregations engaged together in God’s mission through transformation, multiplication, and effective biblical leadership, embodying Jesus’ love to our neighbors near and far.

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