An Eatontown man has been charged with a a string of bomb threats made to stores in Consumer Centre in West Long Branch has been arrested by police.
Kristopher L. Thomas, 21, of the Stony Hill Apartments in Eatontown, is an employee of Chuck E. Cheese located in Consumer Centre at 310 Route 36. He was arrested Monday and charged with four counts of false public alarm in connection with bomb threats made on Sunday and Monday to three retail stores at the Consumer Centre.
If convicted, Thomas faces three to five years in prison on each count.
“Causing public alarm with bomb threats is serious business. We can be thankful no one was injured by this extreme act,” Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a release.
The bombs threats allegedly made by Thomas occurred on Sunday Feb. 17 and Monday Feb. 18.
The West Long Branch Police were dispatched to the Buy Buy Baby store on Feb. 17 after the Monmouth County Radio Room received a 911 call at 1:24 p.m. All access to The Consumer Center was blocked and all stores were evacuated as part of a multi-jurisdictional response including Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office K-9 units and Mobile Command Center, Long Branch, and the West Long Branch Fire, First Aid, and Office of Emergency Management. The threat was deemed to be unfounded after a search of the area proved negative.
The West Long Branch Police were dispatched to The Consumer Center following a 9:38 a.m. on Feb. 18 for another threat made at the Buy Buy Baby store, and once again all access was blocked to the shopping center and all stores were evacuated as part of a multi-jurisdictional response from the U.S. Park Police K-9 Unit, Office of Emergency Management, Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Units and the Long Branch Police Department. West Long Branch Fire and First Aid were put on standby until the area was cleared.
“After the building was cleared, the store was re-opened to the public with no one allowed to enter the store with any bags, packages or receptacle that could hide an explosive device,” West Long Branch Police Chief Lawrence Mihlon said. “Anticipating more calls and the possibility the suspect was watching law enforcement responses, subsequent bomb threats were handled according to specific guidelines.”
According to a release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, less than four hours later, the Buy Buy Baby store received a call at 2:21 p.m. and West Long Branch Police were once again dispatched to the area to evacuate the store and evacuate the general public from the shopping center until another search of the area proved negative for any explosives.
"An hour later, with authorities on scene from the earlier bomb threats a call was received at the Chuck E Cheese restaurant at 3:18 p.m. prompting a search of the restaurant with negative results," the release states. "The call was followed by another call received at the nearby Taco Bell restaurant prompting an evacuation and search of the building with negative results"
An investigation by West Long Branch Police Detectives Michael Paolantonio and Jeff Hanlon and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office led to the arrest of Thomas on Monday.
“This was solved with good old-fashioned police work, technology and a lot of teamwork,” Milhon said.
Thomas was found to be a former employee of the Buy Buy Baby and the Taco Bell restaurant, which is also located in the Consumer Centre.
Thomas is being held in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution, Freehold Township, on $100,000 full cash bail as set by Municipal Court Judge Louis Garippo Jr.
, remains under investigation, the release states.
West Long Branch Police were dispatched to the store after a phone call was made at 1:21 p.m. reporting the bomb threat.
The West Long Branch Police were joined by the Long Branch Police Department, Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, and the West Long Branch Fire, First Aid, and Office of Emergency Management in a coordinated response to block all access to The Consumer Center and evacuate all stores in the shopping center until searches by bomb dogs from the New Jersey State Police, Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit and the Wall Township Police Department determined the area was clear of any threats.