Vanessa Miller, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa –
UPDATE: Two brothers were arrested Tuesday in connection with a pair of bomb threats.
Twice this school year, the threats shut down Iowa City’s Regina Catholic Education Center. The brothers are being held in the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center while police continue to investigate and school officials mull further punishment.
Austin Daniel Troyer, 17, and Alex Michael Troyer, 15, of Iowa City, were arrested Friday on suspicion of first-degree harassment, an aggravated misdemeanor. Both suspects face two counts each of the charge, which involved aiding and abetting because they acted in concert with two other people, according to the juvenile complaints.
The Regina Board of Education met Tuesday evening to discuss taking further action against the students, who are about one year apart – Alex Troyer will turn 16 in October and Austin Troyer turned 17 in August – and who are both listed as sophomores at Regina.
Iowa City police announced the boys’ arrests Tuesday morning after following up on several leads stemming from the most recent bomb threat on Sept. 19.
Police suspect a third person not affiliated with the Regina Catholic Education Center might have been involved, and further investigation is underway to identify and arrest that person, according to an Iowa City police news release.
Lee Iben, president and CEO of Regina, said the board is discussing how to go forward with the students, and he said administrators are glad to be moving toward a resolution in the case.
“It is a comfort at least to know the details surrounding this particular case,” Iben said, adding that administrators initially didn’t know who to suspect. “Whenever there is a situation of this nature, we don’t like to make assumptions of who it could and could not be.”
He did not disclose details about what investigators suspect prompted the threats and what involvement the brothers are accused of having, but Iben did say that there is no evidence indicating the students actually had bombs or a plan to harm the school or its students.
Regina sent information about the arrests out to parents on Tuesday.
In addition to losing classroom time on the days the threats were called in, the school incurred some monetary losses in the form of payroll expenses and operational costs, Iben said. The “safe zones” that accepted the hundreds of evacuated students provided space for free, Iben said, but some parents had to leave work to pick up their children early.
“It was certainly out of their routine,” he said, “that’s for sure.”
Colleen Rogers, who has one student in pre-kindergarten at Regina and one in first grade, told The Gazette during the last bomb threat on Sept. 19 that she had to wake her 1- and 4-year-old children from a nap to come pick up her 6-year-old early.
“I had to disrupt them and drag them out of the house,” she said. “It is frustrating.”
The first bomb threat happened Aug. 20 at 8:56 a.m. when police responded to the K-12 Catholic Education Center, 2150 Rochester Ave., following a phoned-in threat to the school. The caller said a bomb had been placed in the school, according to police, prompting school officials to evacuate the building, take all the students to a safe place and cancel classes for the day.
In addition to the Iowa City Police Department, the UI Police Department’s K-9 division and the Johnson County Bomb Squad searched the school but didn’t find any suspicious devices or packages.
On Sept. 19 at 12:14 p.m., a second threat came into Regina. This time, the caller indicated there was not an explosive in the school but that the caller would come into the school with an explosive device on his body if the school didn’t provide money, according to police.
Again, no suspicious packages or devices were found.
The threats forced the school to cancel classes on two days, but Iben said Regina counted the second threat as a full day of class, even though the day ended early. They made up for the complete loss of a day in August by using one of the snow days they had reserved.
Still, according to police, “Regina has incurred additional monetary expenses as the results of the threats and subsequent responses.
The total value of the damages is still being calculated, police reported.