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Almost three weeks after the first of two bomb threats briefly shut down the heart of Yokota Air Base, base officials say they’ve named a suspect in the first case and are closing in on a possible culprit in the second.

“We believe we have identified the individual” believed responsible for the car bomb threat Jan. 8 next to Bldg. 316, said Col. Mark Correll, 374th Mission Support Group commander.

Correll would not say if an arrest was made, but confirmed the investigation continues. He would not say if the person was from the Yokota community.

The second bomb threat occurred Jan. 13 at Yokota High School.

In both incidents, a note was found — the first on the windshield of a parked car and the second near a school water fountain.

Correll said, however, it doesn’t appear the same individual was responsible.

“We have no reason to believe that the two are related in any way, shape or form,” he said. “That may change as the investigation continues. We haven’t specifically identified an individual” in connection with the second threat “but we’re closing in on what we believe to be some success in that case as well.”

Correll said the base is throwing all its investigative resources into solving both cases. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and security forces are looking into both incidents. If necessary, officials could ask for off-base assistance, he said.

Correll had a stern message for any would-be copycats: “If you think this is funny, it’s not funny. If you think we’re going to take it as a joke, we’re not. We will use every resource we can to find you.”

Though no bombs were found, both incidents disrupted and alarmed the base community for several hours. Aircraft were moved, schools evacuated and people diverted from their jobs to help with the response. Each time, Yokota sent a helicopter to Yokosuka to pick up a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, he said.

Correll, on-scene commander during the base’s response to the threats, estimates that up to 2,000 people were affected during the first scare because of its central location. Dormitories, work stations, the Yokota Community Center — all were vacated, he said.

“We also created a great deal of concern among the base populace,” the colonel said. The first threat was made in the afternoon, while school was in session. Though “there was no impact to the children” and “the schools did a great job of holding them in place ... parents are at work, and they hear this,” he said. “That concerns them.”

Even were the notes intended as a joke, the Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn’t differentiate between a “bomb threat” or “bomb hoax,” Correll said. A servicemember found guilty of such a crime could face up to five years in prison — regardless of intention — plus other punishment, Correll said.

“A bomb threat would be if someone actually intended to either plant a bomb or intended to threaten us,” Correll said. “A bomb hoax is where someone is attempting to mislead, if they’re ‘playing a joke,’ for example.” Noting that the investigation isn’t complete, Correll said he could not say whether the two incidents were threats or hoaxes.

Recourse against a civilian is more complicated because of overseas jurisdictional issues, he said, citing Yokota’s military lawyers. A wing commander has the authority to take a range of administrative action, base lawyers have said, including issuing a reprimand, assessing community service, revoking base shopping privileges or barring an individual from base.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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