Jason David Nichols, 28, Flower Gap Road, Blackwater, was arrested by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday afternoon on two counts of threatening to bomb or burn a public building.
Threatening to bomb a public building is considered a Class 5 felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence in Virginia of 10 years.
Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons said Nichols was just outside the courthouse when he called in the bomb threats in an attempt to stop courtroom proceedings.
“This guy was getting ready to go before the judge, and I guess he had some problems, so he tried to get court stopped,” Parsons said.
Nichols was originally scheduled to appear in circuit court Tuesday morning for failing to pay a fine, a misdemeanor offense.
Parsons said the first call was made to the Lee County Treasurers Office, which is located inside the courthouse, at 9:51 a.m.
Approximately 30 minutes after the first call was made, Nichols allegedly called the Lee County Administrator’s office and made a second threat.
Parsons said both calls were short and provided few details.
“All they said was there is a bomb in the building,” Parsons said.
Lee County authorities were alerted to the calls minutes after they were received, Parsons said.
Once notified, investigators contacted phone service providers in an attempt to track down the number the threatening calls were made from.
A member of the U.S. Marshals Service also assisted with the effort, Parsons said.
Parsons said it took authorities “several hours” to obtain the relevant information from the phone companies. Investigators were aided in their search by the fact Nichols continued to use his phone after he made the alleged threats.
Lee County authorities arrested Nichols at his home in Blackwater shortly after learning of his identity.
Nichols allegedly confessed to calling in the threats after being taken into custody.
Parsons said authorities also confiscated the phone Nichols used to make the calls.
Despite the incident, Parsons said authorities did not feel the need to evacuate the courthouse, or the area around it.
"Since court was going on that day, we felt pretty sure that it was somebody who was there around the courthouse," Parsons said.
Parsons said deputies did search the courthouse’s public areas, as well as its perimeter, as a precautionary measure following the threats.
Nichols is currently being held without bond in the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield.