RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - An ex-Columbia Fire Department volunteer has pleaded guilty to making a bomb threat to the VA Medical Center last year with the hope that his fire station would be dispatched to a real emergency,
Kerry Max Taylor, 21, of Columbia made the plea Wednesday in federal court.
According to U.S. Attorney Beth Drake, Taylor told the FBI he sent text messages to random phone numbers on January 4, 2016 about a bomb at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Garners Ferry Road. He told agents he wanted to draw other fire engines to the hospital so his station would be sent to any other calls that happened at that time.
On that day, two people in South Carolina and one in New York each received a text message from an unknown South Carolina telephone number advising them that someone had placed a bomb in the parking lot of the hospital. Drake said one of the texts stated, "Hey Montana, this is Sosa. Omar said he put a bomb in the parking lot or something…in the VA hospital on Garners Ferry Road. I am scared and I don't know what to do."
The three people each notified law enforcement authorities, who were able to determine the texts were referring to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Columbia. As a result, the Columbia Police Department, the Columbia Fire Department, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Police Department placed the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in lock-down and swept the parking area for explosives. Law enforcement was on the scene for three hours and ultimately determined that the texts were a hoax as no explosive was located.
Taylor faces a maximum of five years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000, in addition to three years of supervised release. The statute also requires that Taylor reimburse the state and local agencies who responded to the incident on January 4, 2016.
Judge Cameron McGowan Currie will impose sentence after she has reviewed the presentence report, which will be prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.