ANCHORAGE - Police think the bomb threat that cleared the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts on New Year's Eve was related to a disturbance earlier in the evening at the center.
The threat was called in to a 911 dispatcher at 10:06 p.m. Friday from a pay phone at the far west end of a bus depot two blocks from Anchorage's arts center, police said.
It followed a disturbance at the center in which several disorderly people were thrown out. Police quickly suspected the incidents were related because fake bomb threats often come from the newly disgruntled.
``I thought it was some drunk that got kicked out and got mad,'' said Capt. Bill Miller, an experienced bomb-threat investigator.
``Right off the bat it sounded like a crank call,'' Deputy Police Chief Mark Mew said Saturday.
But whether to evacuate the center was the decision of its president, Nancy Harbour. She decided to get people out immediately. There were 4,000 inside and another 3,000 to 4,000 outside all waiting to watch the rotating performances of the Anchorage 2000 celebration.
``There's no question about the fact that we all looked at each other and said, `This is a prank,''' Harbour said. ``But even if there's the smallest chance that it wasn't, then people could have been seriously injured, and we couldn't take that chance.''
Police found no evidence of a bomb. They took tapes from two video surveillance cameras in the bus depot that may have shown the caller and plan to begin work on the investigation today.
Harbour said volunteers, police and firefighters cleared the multistage center in 10 minutes. The party continued outside, where thousands endured subzero cold.