Crime

Bomb threat leads to evacuation, closure of Bellingham Regal Cinemas theater Sunday

Bellingham police investigate backpack at Regal Cinemas

The Bellingham Police Department's Hazardous Devices Unit used a robot to move a backpack that was thought to possibly contain a bomb on Sunday, April 29, 2019 at the Regal Cinemas movie theater in Bellingham, Wash. No explosives were located.
Up Next
The Bellingham Police Department's Hazardous Devices Unit used a robot to move a backpack that was thought to possibly contain a bomb on Sunday, April 29, 2019 at the Regal Cinemas movie theater in Bellingham, Wash. No explosives were located.

A Bellingham man was arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat Sunday afternoon causing the evacuation and closure of the Regal Cinemas theater, according to a press release from the Bellingham Police Department.

Ryan Nolan MacFarlane, 27, was arrested on suspicion of threats to bomb property. He was booked into the Whatcom County Jail around 5:15 p.m. Sunday. MacFarlane will appear in court on Monday.

No one was injured from the bomb threat, or the evacuation of the theater complex, the release stated.

An afternoon showing of the “Avengers: Endgame” movie was ending when MacFarlane stood up carrying a backpack and began to shout at the crowd in the theater, according to Bellingham police. He allegedly said “this bomb will be the end,” which prompted movie-goers to immediately run from the theater, the release stated.

“His statements and actions struck fear and panic with the crowd,” according to the release.

An armed bystander followed MacFarlane outside toward The Woods Coffee at the same complex. The man identified himself, told MacFarlane he was armed and to kneel until police arrived, according to the release. MacFarlane complied and was taken into custody without further incident.

MacFarlane’s backpack was isolated in the parking lot until the Bellingham Police Hazardous Devices Unit could examine it. The entire cinema was evacuated and searched by Bellingham police’s explosive detection dog, Marley. Marley did not find any explosives inside the theater, and the Hazardous Devices Unit rendered MacFarlane’s backpack safe, the press release states.

“This was a very stressful and chaotic scene, and I could not be more proud of our officers and community on how they came together in dealing with such a potentially dangerous situation, Bellingham Police Chief David Doll said in a prepared statement. “With the help of a community member, our officers quickly and assuredly made an arrest while Regal Cinema employees assisted in evacuating the entire theater in an effort to keep the public safe from a potential explosive device.

“Our officers’ professionalism, teamwork and training ensured a swift and safe end to this frightening event in our community.”

This weekend was the release of “Avengers: Endgame,” which shattered box office records, taking in $1.2 billion worldwide and arriving as the No. 1 movie in at least 54 countries, according to an article in The New York Times.

The Bellingham Herald has reached out to Regal Cinemas for comment.

MacFarlane has no previous criminal history.

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.
  Comments