According to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, the ATF is investigating a “suspicious device” found on a dirt road at mile marker 778 on Highway 12 in Deweyville near Deweyville High School. Newton County Sgt. Josh Hancock said his office received a call from Samson Energy employees Monday morning, Oct. 15.
“They located the device in the road,” Hancock said. “It looked suspicious and they called us.”
Hancock said there is no way to know when the device was placed on the road. Trucks from the pipeline company doing business on the road and the Samson Energy employees were last in the area Friday at the end of the workday.
Hancock said the sheriff’s office contacted the ATF in Beaumont to take a look at the potentially explosive package. The ATF called its bomb squad in Houston and HAZMAT was sent to the scene. According to Hancock, the device was X-rayed and a water charge was set off to make sure it would not explode. Then, the device was stripped down to its collected components for ATF analysis. Hancock said that upon testing the device, no hazardous materials were found and the components were all “safe.”
“The ATF is a great resource to us,” Hancock said. “They come when we need them.”
Hancock said his office contacted Deweyville superintendent Kevin Mathis to alert him that there was a suspicious device in the vicinity. Hancock said the device would not likely affect the school even if it were explosive, but the students at the school might have heard the noise from their location.
“It could have caused a heck of a bang,” Hancock speculated.
“We received word from the sheriff’s office around 12 or 12:15,” Superintendent Mathis said. “We evacuated the school around 12:35, right after the lunch period. It was our call, and we made that call to make sure the kids were safe. … Anytime there is a possibility that our kids safety is at risk, we have to respond. We moved them to the elementary school via buses. We put their safety before anything else.”
Hancock said the ATF is investigating the dismantled device and its components. His office is investigating how it got there and who may have placed the device in the roadway. He said the road is normally only used by employees of the energy company or pipeline, but two hunting clubs also utilize the land near the road. He said he already “going down the list” of parties who might have information or might have witnessed anything regarding the device.
Tuesday following the discovery of the suspicious package, Hancock was back at the scene with ATF officers, FBI agents and Beaumont SWAT combing the area for “possibly a person.” Hancock said they found cigarette butts near the location of the device and K-9 units were deployed to try and pick up the scent of the potential perpetrator. They were searching both down the dirt road at mile marker 778 and across the highway in the woods there. Hancock said the FBI counterterrorism experts were there “just as a precaution, and they have some assets we can use in the investigation.”
“The K-9 units weren’t able to pick up a scent,” Hancock said. “We thought maybe (the perpetrators) were somewhere close or in the area, maybe in a deer stand or something.”
He said that at this time, the investigation continues.