By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — Investigators may be closing in on a suspect responsible for a pair of bomb threats than shut down two local high schools Monday morning.
"The investigation is continuing and we have made progress," Niagara County Undersheriff Mike Filicetti said on Tuesday.
An early morning phone call into the Sheriff's Office 911 Center, claiming that bombs had been planted at both the Niagara Falls and Niagara-Wheatfield high schools led to the lockdown of each facility.
Investigators have not commented on what the caller said or other leads they are pursuing.
Law enforcement sources have told the Gazette they questioned the credibility of the threats almost from the beginning.
Falls police officers responded to the Porter Road high school, while sheriff's deputies, Lewiston Police officers and New York State Police troopers raced to the school complex on Route 31.
While Falls students remained in their classes, officials with the Niagara-Wheatfield School District chose to evacuate students from their school.
"The kids were taken over to the Sanborn Fire Hall and they stood by there," Filicetti said.
Bomb-sniffing dogs from the sheriff's office, the State Police and Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police swept the high school complex and found nothing
Niagara-Wheatfield Superintendent Lynn Fusco said the district evacuated the students because of concerns for their safety.
"The safety of the children came first," Fusco said. "Because the threat was not defined, we made sure with the evacuation of the children."
Fusco also said the district's safety teams would be reviewing their response and re-evaluating procedures moving forward.
"What we will be doing is having our safety teams meet to debrief everyone involved of the events of the day," she said, adding the sheriff's office would be part of the procedure. "We'll be working to improve our responses to these situations."
In the Falls, parents were notified of the lockdown via the district's all-call system and kept informed of the situation as details became available. A team of three police K-9 units searched the high school and found nothing.
"At 10:28 a.m. the school was taken off lockdown, after being cleared by three (bomb-sniffing) dogs." Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said.
School district officials also dealt with a second threat on Monday, when an anonymous call was placed to Hyde Park Elementary School at 12:18 p.m. A district spokesperson said a lockdown of that building was initiated and lasted until 12:48 p.m., when staff and students were given the all-clear.
Falls school officials said it wasn't clear whether the second threat was related to the bomb claims involving the high schools or an isolated incident.