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Bomb threats empty seven Pasco County high schools

A Lutz teen is arrested after the threats gave 11,000 students a break from class.

A Lutz 17-year-old called in a series of bomb threats to the county's school district headquarters Friday morning, sending authorities on a chase from one pay phone to another and forcing the evacuation of seven Pasco high schools.

The scare didn't last long because authorities traced the calls to a convenience store and a motel in the Land O'Lakes area and got a description of the teenager and his mud-splattered sport utility vehicle from employees at those businesses, Pasco school Superintendent John Long said.

Minutes after the last threat was made, a muddy Ford Bronco pulled into the parking lot at Land O'Lakes High School and a 17-year-old boy matching the description of the caller walked to the front office to sign a tardy slip, Long said.

A deputy recognized the youth and arrested him after the teenager admitted placing the calls, the Sheriff's Office said.

He was arrested just as authorities were preparing to evacuate Land O'Lakes High. The county's seven other high schools already had been evacuated, and an estimated 11,000 students were told to return to class after only a few minutes of freedom.

The boy, a sophomore at Land O'Lakes, was arrested on three felony counts of making fake bomb threats and taken to the Pasco Juvenile Detention Center. The Times is withholding the teenager's name because of his age.

The boy told authorities that he called in the bomb threat after hearing news reports on the radio about a similar incident in Hillsborough County Friday morning.

"It sounds like he was running late and he just didn't want to go to school," Long said. "He picked a heck of a way to make sure he didn't."

The teen was immediately suspended, and Long said he would recommend that the School Board expel him from Land O'Lakes High. Long said the boy's record would have to be reviewed before determining whether the teen will be offered a place in one of the county's alternative schools.

The teen's three calls, all of which were made to the main switchboard number at the school district's headquarters in Land O'Lakes, were spaced minutes apart.

Authorities said that on the first call, the teen said, "There's a bomb in one of your schools." Not knowing which campus to focus on, faculty members at every school in the county started searching classrooms and hallways looking for anything suspicious.

The teen said on the second call that he was in "one of your Pasco County schools." But authorities quickly realized he wasn't because the third call came from a pay phone in front of a Land O'Lakes motel.

Authorities traced each call and deputies rushed to the locations where they were placed. But each time, the teenager was gone when deputies arrived.

On the third call, the teen said, "There's a bomb in one of your high schools," according to reports.

Not taking any chances, Long ordered the high schools to begin evacuation procedures.

The threats, however harmless, threw a wrench into the school day, Long said.

"What he did disrupted every school in the county," Long said.

The teen's mother, reached at home Friday, declined to comment.