HELENA — The Lewis & Clark County Sheriff's Office says an object found at Rossiter Elementary School on Tuesday morning was not an explosive device and there was no detonation, despite earlier reports that there had been a detonation.
According to Sheriff Leo Dutton, the object was a bottle filled with gears or machine parts and an unknown liquid that does not appear to be flammable. The Sheriff's Office post on Facebook stated: "Based on its appearance, responders originally suspected an explosive device had detonated. Investigation by officials determined it did not explode."
Dutton says in the course of the investigation they spoke to a homeless man who they believe found the bottle and moved it from a nearby construction site.
The Sheriff emphasized that school officials took the appropriate steps after finding the object due to the unknown nature of it.
Additional tests will be completed, but they are not expected to show any dangerous material.
Here is the full text of a press release from the Lewis & Clark County Communications Coodinator on Tuesday at 9:35 a.m.; it was also posted to the Lewis & Clark County Emergency Management page on Facebook:
- An Improvised Explosive Device was found this morning on the Rossiter School playground. It detonated shortly after. Nobody was injured. Rossiter students are being evacuated and the path for kids to evacuate has been cleared. Parents are asked to pick up their kids at the Little Red Schoolhouse East of the frontage road. Sierra Road is closed from Montana to the Frontage Road and people are asked to avoid this area. Buses are at the Little Red School House to keep the kids warm while they wait for their parents.
- All Helena District 1 Schools and East Helena Schools are currently on lockdown to be searched by law enforcement but are not being evacuated at this time.
- In addition to the Lewis and Clark Sheriff’s office, the FBI, Montana Highway Patrol, Helena Police Department, and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are on-scene as well as the LCCO bomb squad.
Rossiter is expected to reopen to students on Wednesday.
(1:10 pm) On Tuesday morning, an improvised explosive device that reportedly had been detonated was found on the Rossiter Elementary School playground in the Helena Valley.
Initial reports from law enforcement officers indicated that the device detonated after it was found, but they later clarified that the device had already detonated when it was discovered, and there were no students in the area at the time.
Lewis & Clark County Undersheriff Jason Grimmis described it as a "pop-bottle" type of device with tape on it.
The school was quickly evacuated, and Helena College shut down the Airport Campus and the Donaldson Campus due to the incident. Classes at Helena College have been canceled for the remainder of the day and students asked to go home.
The Lewis & Clark County Emergency Management Office says all Helena and East Helena area schools have since been searched and cleared and lockdowns have been lifted.
Rossiter remains closed for the day. It has not been determined yet if Rossiter students will be allowed to return to class on Wednesday.
In addition, schools in and around Great Falls were briefly ordered to implement on "shelter in place" status as police officers and Sheriff's deputies performed sweeps to ensure there were no threats.
Here is a photo of the news release from the Lewis & Clark County Communications Coordinator: