Students at Homer High School were evacuated from the campus this morning after a suspicious device was found in a stairwell.
It was Homer High Principal Dr. Allan Gee who discovered the device, right before classes were set to begin at 8:30 Thursday morning. Gee said the device looked to be a coffee can, with wiring sticking out of it and some sort of electronic device taped to the side.
Following emergency protocol laid out by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Gee contacted the Homer Police Department and district officials, then ordered an evacuation of the school.
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl says that his officers arrived on the scene shortly after the evacuation was called. Robl says that two suspects were identified – 18-year old Zachary Fraley and an unidentified 16-year-old male. Both suspects were arrested and questioned by police.
Gee says that at some point, someone – he does not know who – took the device apart. It was apparent after that that the device was non-threatening. Students were allowed back into the school after about 30 minutes, and the school resumed its normal schedule.
Gee says the investigation could have been helped by the school’s system of security cameras but it just so happened that the system is currently undergoing an upgrade and was turned off Thursday morning.
He says that during the evacuation, one of the students responsible for the fake bomb came to him and admitted to his role in it.
"Apparently, this (was) some type of game and they had no intent to scare ... anyone or to cause this disruption," he said.
Chief Robl says that, game or not, what the suspects did was very serious. He says Homer Police have responded to bomb threats at the high school before but there hasn’t been one for a long time.
In his many years as an educator, Gee says it’s not uncommon to see pranks – especially by members of the senior class – during the last week of school.
"We have to remember that they are still kids and sometimes they make some poor choices," he said.
Fraley and his 16-year-old accomplice have been charged with First Degree Terroristic Threatening, a felony charge that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Robl said Fraley was being held at the Homer Jail while the 16-year-old was released into the custody of his parents. Gee says the students could also be disciplined by the school district.