AUGUSTA — Police continue to investigate the source of the bomb threat received early Friday that resulted in the closure of all Augusta public schools.

After a five-hour search, city police reported that “there were no harmful devices or substances located at any of the places that were searched” by police officers accompanied by dogs trained to search out explosives.

Police also said the emailed bomb threat might have come from someone other than a student.

In a news release, police indicated they were working with state and national law enforcement, including the FBI, to “determine if the email threat made against our school system was connected to similar threats that were made to several other schools in other New England states this morning around the same time frame,” according to Jared Mills, deputy chief of the Augusta Police Department. Mills said that information was provided by the state’s Information and Analysis Center, and he did not know which states or which schools reported threats on Friday.

The Washington Post reported that schools in New Jersey and Virginia also received threats on Friday, but those were called in and caused evacuations and lockdowns.

The emailed threat to Augusta schools was received by an unnamed employee at Cony High School around 6 a.m.

Mills added that the department often investigates threats written on paper or on the walls on a given campus, but because of the way this threat was conveyed, he thinks it might have come from someone other than a student.

“The email said generally that there was a bomb in the schools and throughout the school system in Augusta,” Mills said during a news conference at Cony High School. “We responded immediately and we were lucky there were only a few students (at Cony).”

Police dogs from Portland and Bangor were called in to search city schools.

“We will search (the other schools) as we get the resources, and once they are deemed safe, they will be reopened,” Mills said early Friday. Schools were closed for the day for “safety reasons,” Mills said, adding officials decided to cancel school for the day because classes had not started yet.

Last school year, there was a spate of bomb threats at Cony — June 2, 8 and 9. In September, after another bomb threat, police issued a summons on a charge of terrorizing to a 15-year-old girl.

Mills said because of the way this threat was conveyed, he doesn’t think it is connected to any of the past threats the school has received.

“This was an actual email that we have to authenticate, and we’re working with the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force to trace it back and confirm that it’s even a valid threat,” Mills said. “We aren’t taking anything for granted, and we’re taking all precautions to make sure every school today is searched and made safe.”

The Police Department and the School Department posted a message on their Facebook pages earlier this morning. Both pages have been flooded with comments from concerned parents and members of the community. Initially Friday it appeared that parents and others were confused about the safety issue and wanted more details. Later, more than 30 people posted messages on the Facebook page of the Augusta Police Department thanking the officers for their work.

One person commented that the closures because of bomb threats seem to be outpacing snow days.

Another woman said, “Thank you for keeping my children safe and keeping them home.”

Someone else urged concerned people to be patient and let the investigation continue.

“I am sure we will all know what’s going on as soon as the schools have time to figure it out. This just happened. It’s unfortunate that no one is sure of any answers but I think we should give it some time and be thankful it didn’t happen when all the kids were in school.”

Others suggested that it should be easy to trace the email back to its source.

Superintendent James Anastasio did not return a request for comment on Friday.

Cony High School Principal Kimberly Silsby said all after-school activities were canceled Friday. However, she added that all weekend events will take place as scheduled. Those include rehearsals for the upcoming Chizzle Wizzle stage performances and a caucus of Augusta Democratic Party members set for 1 p.m. Sunday at Cony.

Silsby said the regular custodial staff will be at Cony, and she anticipated that some teachers might want to come into the building to pick up some materials.

She also said it is the school district’s policy to have public information about bomb threats come directly from Augusta police, and that any decision about making up the missed school day would be made by the superintendent and the school board.

Staff writer Betty Adams contributed to this report.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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