Courthouse Workers React to Weekend Bombing

The scene Saturday.
The scene Saturday.

Federal agents are still searching for answers after someone set off a bomb outside the Liberty County Courthouse Saturday morning. It happened just after 6am Saturday. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms says the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device.

Officers found white smoke coming from the door at the rear of the building. Witnesses heard the explosion from as far as a mile away. Agents brought in a bomb-sniffing dog to look for clues and found some pieces of the bomb. The case remains under investigation.

Today, people who work in the courthouse tried to get back to normal. The explosion was especially unnerving to the people who screen everything and everybody coming in and out of the courthouse.

They're not sure what to think until they know who did it and why. But when a bomb explodes 30 feet from where you sit, you can't blame them.

Outside the Liberty County Courthouse today, workers hung holiday greenery over the shattered glass door where the makeshift bomb exploded.

Inside, Catherine Chapman checked visitors as usual. She'd heard about the blast on WTOC before she came to work. "I thought I heard Liberty County and I said, 'No, that couldn't be it.'"

She calls her reaction surprise, but not shock. "There's a lot of people that aren't satisfied when they come to the courthouse," she said. "You see the lower end of the community and the higher end of the community, both sides of the law."

Two years ago, Dep. Bobby Howell took a gun from a man at the very same door. "I figure somebody who would do this would do it at a time they wouldn't be noticed," he said.

Sheriff Don Martin says security means inconvenience. "They don't like you to go in their pocketbook and I don't blame them. But to secure this building, there's things we have to do."

Sheriff Martin says part of increasing security is convincing taxpayers they need it. They got metal detectors 15 years ago only after a man brought a gun in the courtroom and shot two people.

Both Chapman and Howell say they'll feel better when this bomber comes back to court. "Hopefully, they'll be in handcuffs that time," said Chapman.

If you think you know anything about this case, call the Liberty County Sheriff's Department at 912.876.4555.

Sheriff Martin says security is already as tight as it can be in an older building. He says they may look at security cameras, but with a new courthouse on the drawing table, they may look more at what they can design for a new one.

Reported by: Dal Cannady,