Two more Maricopa County court buildings were evacuated today, one because of a bomb threat and the other because of a cloud of pepper spray, marking another day of chaos in the Valley’s justice system.
At about 10 a.m., a person called authorities to say there was a bomb at a downtown Phoenix building that houses a number of courtrooms handling drunken driving cases, as well as the chambers of several court commissioners. A short time later, someone released pepper spray inside another lower-court building that’s also home to the county Public Defender’s Office.
Sheriff’s deputies believe the bomb threat for the court building at Madison and Central avenues was related to one that cleared out the county’s main court facility less than a block away on Wednesday, causing extra headaches on a day that was already marred by political battles over the case of a jailed detention officer.
“We think it’s the same guy and voice,” said sheriff’s spokesman deputy Doug Matteson. “The call came in and the male said a bomb would go off there. The man said he called in the other bomb threats to the court buildings in the last few days.”
After evacuating the building, investigators searched it but found nothing, he said.
It’s unclear whether the release of pepper spray at the county’s Downtown Justice Center just a few blocks west at 620 W. Jackson St., was done accidentally or on purpose.
Court administrators sent an email to staffers at about 11 a.m., saying people there had smelled a strange odor and the building was being cleared. Soon after, the odor was determined to be pepper spray.
Matteson said whoever sprayed it was “a citizen,” not a deputy or court staffer, though he or she hadn’t been identified. “We are still looking for the person,” he said.
Both buildings were open again by noon.
All of this comes a day after the county’s main Superior Court complex, which is made up , was cleared out by a bomb threat. And it comes during a week when the county is in something of a judicial crisis over the jailing of a detention officer who defied a judge’s order.
Sheriff’s investigators have been unable to determine whether the bomb threats are related to the case of detention officer Adam Stoddard.