Estancia students were evacuated and put on lockdown Aug. 29, after a bomb was found on the high school campus. “New Mexico State Police bomb squad arrived a short time later [after Cobbs and Torrance County deputies arrived] and took custody of the device,” said Estancia Police Chief Vernon Cobbs.
Estancia Municipal Schools superintendent Cindy Sims said that “the maintenance guys were cleaning to prepare for the football game in the parking lot adjacent to the football field” and found what she described as an “incendiary device.”
In a letter posted on the Estancia Schools website, Sims says that “the device had a cap, a fuse, was in a metal tube, was packed and wrapped with tape.”
Sims said that the school had a safety plan in place, which requires the staff and students to create a 300-yard buffer from where the device was located. The high school and the middle school were evacuated to the elementary school and put into a lockdown; the kids are allowed movement within the building but not outside, she said.
Sims said that after a command center was established the Estancia Police Department was notified. Parents were notified through an automated phone call. She said that it took 7 minutes to get over 300 kids to the evacuation area. Sims also said teachers and students remained calm, with only one student upset over accidentally leaving behind a cell phone.
Sims said 70% of the students were picked up early and there was good attendance the following day for school and the football game after school, where an extra police presence was established.
According to Cobbs the device did not blow up. “The device was found 100 yards away from the nearest building and at no time was any student in danger,” he said. Cobbs added that the reason such a large perimeter was created is because “it is always better to evacuate and make a perimeter larger than what is necessary just for the safety of the public.”
When asked about what type of bomb it was, Cobbs said, “I can’t comment on that because its still under investigation.” He said that the Estancia Police Department is investigating in the town and the State Police are investigating the device.
Cobbs called it a “low-key event,” adding that “there was no mass panic so we didn’t have stressed out kids.” He also said that Estancia Police were there in less than five minutes, and State Police were there approximately 20 to 25 minutes after they got the call.
According to Estancia mayor Nathan Dial, the mental health of the community is OK. He said, “Since the incident happened I haven’t heard any, other than some parents worried …, but other than that I haven’t heard any distress calls or emotional events or anything as far as you know people having mental issue over it.”
Dial is also a parent and has a child who is attending school; he decided not to pick them up early from the day of the incident.
He explained, “I didn’t want it to look like I was checking my kid out of the school knowing something that someone else doesn’t know, so I made the conscious decision that I was not going to check mine out to ensure that I’m in the same position as the rest of the parents. As far as I was concerned there was no issue, my kid wanted to come home because they were locked in without their phone—it wasn’t because they were scared.”
“Everybody was real cooperative and we all worked together,” Cobbs said. “The mayor showed up for me—he stepped up to the plate and did a really good job at helping me out. I’m glad he was there.”
“One thing that did make me feel great was throughout the whole situation, at every level, I saw nothing but professionalism,” Dial said, “even the people that were kind of stressing out. … For the situation, it was pretty smooth.”