Phantom Fireworks Steps Up Security After Bomb Threat
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Phantom Fireworks has stepped up security across the country at its offices, brick-and-mortar retail stores and temporary locations following a bomb threat at the headquarters Tuesday night, the company’s general counsel said Wednesday morning, an event that might be tied to President Trump praising the company last night.
According to a Youngstown Police Department report, William Weimer, Phantom Fireworks vice president and general counsel, told police arriving on the scene that the business had received a “threatening phone call” at 8:30 p.m.
Phantom employees are working extended hours at the 2445 Belmont Ave. headquarters and its retail locations in advance of the Fourth of July holiday.
When a receptionist answered the phone, an unknown male on the other end of the line said, “There’s a bomb in the building, get out.” Three minutes later, the same individual called, saying only “tick tock, tick tock, tick tock,” prompting the receptionist to inform the security guard, who in turn told Weimer, and police were notified.
While waiting for police to arrive, Weimer and another individual not identified in the report began clearing the building.
About 60 employees were evacuated from the building, Weimer said. Many of the corporate staff are working in support positions at the retail stores ahead of the holiday.
The calls were made an hour after Trump, on Twitter, thanked Phantom Fireworks and Fireworks by Grucci for donating $750,000 in equipment and personnel to the Independence Day celebration Trump has planned, “the biggest fireworks show Washington, D.C. has ever seen.”
He continued, “CEO’s Bruce Zoldan and Phil Grucci are helping to make this the greatest 4th of July celebration in our Nations history!”
After the building was cleared, Weimer joined officers to perform a sweep of the building to determine if anything was out of place. A bomb dog from Mercy Health was brought in, but nothing was found.
While checking Weimer’s office, police were able to listen to the phone call and Weimer emailed the recording to city police. He also printed a copy of the visitor’s log, which was scanned into the report.
Many of the employees on-site were sent home about 90 minutes after the threats were made, and investigators concluded their work on site by shortly after 11 p.m., Weimer said.
In response, Phantom has increased security, “whether it’s needed or right or not,” at the company’s eight offices, four warehouses, 79 standing retail stores and more than 1,300 temporary sites – “every location we have across the country,” he said.
Weimer did not automatically assign Trump’s tweet as the trigger for the calls, though he acknowledged it could have been the cause. They could have been related to competitive issues with other fireworks companies or made by a disgruntled employee. “There’s a whole gamut of what it could be,” he suggested.
“What happened last night was that we received a cowardly phone threat,” he said. “It was against a company whose entire being is dedicated to celebrating America and the freedoms we enjoy.”
Those freedoms, he lamented, permit events like what happened last night to take place.
“We believe that this will be categorized as a terrorist act,” though he is not sure yet whether it will be considered a local, state or federal issue. “We’re waiting to find that out,” he said.
He also pledged his company would cooperate with local and federal officials to investigate and “prosecute this thing to the fullest extent of the law.”
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.