This article has been updated below to reflect new information from police, including the name of a suspect arrested in connection with the incident.
A bomb threat at Nassau First District Court in Hempstead caused a massive evacuation of judges, lawyers, defendants, prisoners and court staff Monday morning, Hempstead Village police and court officials said.
Police said just after 9 a.m. on Monday, court staff received a telephone bomb threat. A decision was made to evacuate the building, which handles cases for First, Second, and Third District Courts, as well as arraignments, small claims matters and misdemeanor trials.
The evacuation of the courthouse at 99 Main Street included prisoner holding pens in the lower floors of the building. Emergency crews were called to the scene and scanner traffic indicated that fire crews were set to stage emergency vehicles at the Nassau Inter-County Express bus depot, just down the road from the court.
Police conducted a sweep of the building for explosives, but nothing was found and the scene was deemed safe. The building reopened to visitors and court staff just after 10 a.m.
A spokeswoman for the New York State Unified Court System deferred comment on the incident to police.
UPDATE [03/11/13 5:50 p.m.]: Hempstead Village police announced an arrest for falsely reporting an incident relating to the bomb threat at the Nassau County District Court building this morning.
Police said at 9:08 a.m., 911 dispatchers received a telephone call threatening that “a bomb was going to go off” at the courthouse. The building was evacuated and searched, officials said. The threat was deemed unfounded and it was determined that the building was “safe,” police said. A second bomb threat was received by 911 at 9:15 a.m., which police said came from a nearby public telephone booth.
Police conducted an investigation and arrested Melbis Hernandez, 25, of 45 Jackson Street. The Hempstead resident was apprehended at 9:47 a.m. on Centre Street, cops said.
Hernandez was charged with two counts of falsely reporting an incident and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court on Tuesday.
UPDATE [03/11/13 6:49 p.m.]: Court records show that the suspect, Melbis Hernandez, was scheduled to be sentenced on a misdemeanor driving while ability impaired charge this morning inside the District Court building in Hempstead.
On Jan 17, Hernandez pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of driving while ability impaired by drugs relating to an August 2010 arrest, records show. A report published in Newsday, citing a district attorney’s office spokesman, said Hernandez’s sentencing was delayed briefly Monday for the threat.
Court documents show that a warrant was issued after Hernandez failed to appear for sentencing this morning. He was arrested by Hempstead police at 9:47 a.m. around the corner from the courthouse after allegedly making the two threats from a local payphone.
Hernandez is due to be arraigned tomorrow in the same courthouse he allegedly threatened to bomb.
Examiner.com will continue to follow the developments of this story and provide updates as more information becomes available.