Crime

Bellingham man accused of hindering bomb squad’s efforts to clear Regal Cinemas area

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.
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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 cited for allegedly delaying the Bellingham Police Department’s efforts during the alleged bomb threat Sunday afternoon that caused the evacuation and temporary closure of the Regal Cinemas movie theater.

Jeffrey Joseph Schwab, 41, was cited and released for obstructing an officer, according to information provided to The Bellingham Herald by Bellingham Police Lt. Claudia Murphy.

As an April 28 afternoon showing of “Avengers: Endgame” was in its final scenes, a man reportedly stood up in the theater with a backpack on and began shouting about God. The man, who was later identified as 27-year-old Ryan Nolan MacFarlane, said “this bomb will help you get to the end,” according to Whatcom County Superior Court records.

MacFarlane’s threat caused approximately 3,000 people to be evacuated from the theater, which temporarily closed due to the incident, Murphy said. No one was injured from the bomb threat or the evacuation of the theater complex.

MacFarlane’s backpack was isolated in the parking lot until the Bellingham Police Hazardous Devices Unit could examine it. Officers cleared the immediate area, blocked all the exits, marked the area with crime scene tape and moved people away from the area the bomb squad was in, Murphy said.

Shortly after 5 p.m., as the bomb squad was preparing to render MacFarlane’s backpack safe, a man was seen in the area walking to his car, Murphy said. Bomb squad officers yelled to get his attention, but the man, later identified as Schwab, reportedly kept going to his car.

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Bellingham police officers marked the area surrounding the Regal Cinemas movie theater in Bellingham with crime scene tape and move people away from the area following a bomb threat at the theater on Sunday, April 28. Deborah Bernard Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

An officer walked over to Schwab, explained he wasn’t going to be able to leave in his car and told him to walk behind the crime scene tape to a safe area, Murphy said. Schwab allegedly argued with the officer and refused to obey the officer’s instructions.

Schwab eventually walked toward the tape with the officer, but then refused to get behind the tape or take cover behind a large vehicle as instructed, Murphy told The Bellingham Herald.

The bomb squad “had to delay their process and the officer had to devote his attention solely to Schwab during this time,” according to Murphy. “Probable cause was developed for obstructing, as Schwab’s argumentative behavior and refusal to obey the officer to get to safety hindered and delayed this investigation.”

Schwab’s arraignment is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. on May 10 in Bellingham Municipal Court.

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.
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