Bomb threat hoax targets places in southwest Virginia

By Alison Wickline - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - It was business as usual Thursday at the Vinton Veterinary Hospital. 

"We were just doing normal things, checking people in, we had clients coming in, putting appointments in and things like that, answering phones," said Mekayla Childress, front desk receptionist at Vinton Veterinary Hospital. 

That all changed when the office received a bomb threat through email, part of a wave of threats around the same time nationwide. The email said that someone in the area had an explosive device and the office had to deposit $20,000 in a bitcoin account or the bomb would go off. After receiving the email, staff called the Vinton Police Department and the building was evacuated. But that isn't always easy to do at a vet hospital when animals are under anesthesia. 

"They just had to load them up on our stretchers and get their monitors to go outside and put them in somebody's car to keep them warm," said Childress. 

The threats across the country all appeared to be hoaxes. They were reported at businesses, schools and hospitals. Places here in southwest Virginia were sent threats -- in Roanoke, Chatham, Vinton, Lynchburg and Hillsville. Even though the threats were unfounded, each one put a strain on important law enforcement and emergency resources.

"You have to assume the threat is real even though it may not be, so you use all the resources that are available," said Dr. Tod Burke, a criminal justice expert and former police officer. 

Authorities are still trying to learn who sent the threats. 

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