Juneau man arrested after alleged bomb threat

McDonald's evacuated after early-morning claim

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A 31-year-old Juneau resident is in jail after allegedly claiming he had a bomb in his Super 8 motel room early Monday morning.

Neil Haapala's calls to the motel's front desk, starting at about 1:13 a.m., drew a SWAT team, uniformed officers and police negotiators to the motel, and led to an evacuation at the 24-hour McDonald's restaurant next door.

Police closed Trout Street for two blocks during their three-hour negotiation with Haapala.

"They set up a perimeter around the motel," Juneau Police Capt. Tom Porter said.

Haapala surrendered and police arrested him on a felony charge of terroristic threatening. Police did not find a bomb in his room. District Court Judge Keith Levy set his bail later on Monday at $10,000.

Late Monday, Haapala remained lodged in the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

During the alleged incident, Haapala reportedly made numerous calls to the motel's front desk.

The motel's co-manager, Cleveland Mitchell, said he acted as a "middleman" for Haapala and the police, because he had to answer the front desk phone.

In his first phone call to the front desk, some 10 minutes after going up to his room, Haapala asked for "a negotiator," Mitchell said.

On the next call, Haapala said he was "going to blow the place up," Mitchell said. At that point, Mitchell contacted the police department.

At 3:22 a.m., Haapala walked out of his room and was taken into police custody.

"It was without incident. He didn't fight or anything," Porter said.

Mitchell said he didn't feel a need to evacuate the Super 8 motel, where about 67 rooms were rented.

"One of the guests knew about it. He laughed it off and went to bed," Mitchell said.

According to police, the McDonald's was closed and evacuated at the direction of its manager. The restaurant's business office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The police department didn't request evacuations at either location.

"We allowed management to make the decision," Porter said.

Porter said alcohol was a factor in the alleged bomb threat. He also said this is not the first time that Haapala has rented a room at the Super 8.

The felony with which Haapala was charged carries a maxmum sentence of five years and maximum fine of $50,000.

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