Crime

No explosives found after threat to blow up Whatcom County Courthouse; man held

The Whatcom County Courthouse in downtown Bellingham, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. A Bellingham man was arrested after making threats to blow up the courthouse and jail with a bomb on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, but no explosives were found after a search with a dog, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said.
The Whatcom County Courthouse in downtown Bellingham, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. A Bellingham man was arrested after making threats to blow up the courthouse and jail with a bomb on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, but no explosives were found after a search with a dog, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said. pdwyer@bellinghamherald.com

A Bellingham man threatened to blow up the Whatcom County Courthouse on Friday, Oct. 28, prompting deputies to search the building, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said.

Eric James Smith, 22, called the sheriff’s office just after noon Friday and said he planned to use a bomb to blow up the courthouse and Whatcom County Jail, and added that he planned to kill deputies, Elfo said Saturday.

Deputies tracked Smith to the Rodeway Inn at 3710 Meridian St. He was booked into jail just before 3 p.m. on charges of making a bomb threat and felony harassment. Deputies also used a dog to do a sweep through the courthouse and jail, but did not find any explosives, Elfo said.

“Certainly in this day and age, any bomb threat has to be taken seriously,” he said.

The courthouse also was evacuated Friday, but not for the threat; someone erroneously pulled a fire alarm, Elfo said.

Smith has a history of mental illness and has been booked into jail before for making similar threats, Elfo said. Smith was charged in May with three counts of felony harassment after he was accused of making calls to a Bellingham clinic and threatening to kill specific doctors there, according to court records.

“I could just come down there with guns and you would never know,” Smith reportedly told staff, adding that the clinic had caused him to lose five of his jobs, court documents say. Clinic staff changed the way they arrived at and left the building because of the alleged threats.

The felony charges were later dismissed, but Smith pleaded guilty to charges in Whatcom County District Court, records say.

He also was charged in September 2015 with fourth-degree domestic violence, assault and felony harassment after Bellingham police responded to complaints of Smith screaming at a home on 32nd Street, according to charging papers. Smith was arrested after shoving another man at the house, and he repeatedly threatened to kill the officer who arrested him, charging papers say.

Smith pleaded guilty in December 2015 to the assault charge and to a reduced misdemeanor harassment charge, court papers say.

“We believe he’s dangerously mentally ill,” Elfo said, adding that deputies have referred Smith to get treatment in the past.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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