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3 teens charged in school explosion

No one was hurt Tuesday when the device went off between periods at Jefferson High School.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001


TAMPA -- Three teenagers were arrested Tuesday after a small explosive device went off in the halls of Jefferson High School.

About 9:30 a.m., a device described as a plastic container stuffed with an explosive mixture blew up on the floor in a communal area of the school at 4401 Cypress St., said Hillsborough schools spokesman Mart Hart.

No one was injured, but the school's 1,600 students were evacuated for about 90 minutes as police searched the building, Hart said.

Katie Hughes, public information officer at the Tampa Police Department, said three 15-year-old Jefferson students, two boys and one girl, were charged with making and possessing a destructive device, and with arson. The students, who are not being named by the Times because of their ages, were taken to the juvenile assessment center.

Kristin Foster, 17, a senior at Jefferson, said students were on their way from homeroom to second period when they heard the device go off. "It sounded like a gunshot, just ringing through the hallways," Foster said. "It definitely freaked me out.

"There's just some crazy people out there."

Also Tuesday, bomb threats prompted evacuations and searches at Williams Middle School, Cahoon Elementary, Durant High and Bloomingdale High. No bombs were found. A 14-year-old boy was charged with making the threat at Williams.

Hart said the district has received 18 bomb threats since Feb. 20. Still, the 54 bomb threats this year are just five more than the district received at this time last year, Hart said.

Hart said the media attention is "a double-edged sword."

"It may encourage copycat behavior, but it also helps communicate the consequences of this behavior," Hart said. "Making a bomb threat is a felony. Students who engage in this type of behavior won't be returning to any of our regular schools any time soon."

- Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or goffard@sptimes.com.

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