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Big scare — Bomb threat when bank robber shuts down Silverdale Way

A bomb technician heads into the Silverdale Way branch of Key Bank March 15 during a massive response to a robber in search of $50,000 claiming to have a bomb.  - Greg Skinner
A bomb technician heads into the Silverdale Way branch of Key Bank March 15 during a massive response to a robber in search of $50,000 claiming to have a bomb.
— image credit: Greg Skinner

In the end, there was no bomb. But for more than an hour, employes of the Silverdale branch of KeyBank, the police responding and the gathered crowd thought there was.

On March 15, Bremerton resident Manda Jo Hoem, 34, allegedly drove to the  Silverdale Way bank branch, parked her silver Chevy and shortly after 2:30 p.m., entered the bank mangers office claiming to have a bomb. Though, nearly every employee and customer was unaware of the robbery under way, Hoem allegedly demanded $50,000.

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Bremerton Police, SWAT and bomb squads and the FBI were all on the scene before the conclusion of the robbery attempt. With everyone out of the bank, including the manager, police began to work with Hoem. An hour-and-a-half would pass before police finally pushed Hoem to the ground and covered her with a police riot shield as she exited the bank to turn herself in.

While the exact nature and construction of the fake bomb used in the ruse has not been released, police said exposed wires coming from Hoem’s clothing added to the verbal threat.

Evidence collected at the scene included a $15 children’s toy called “bionic ear” from Spy Net.

Charged with robbery in the first degree, Hoem was arraigned in Kitsap County District Court last week and held on $500,000 bail. Her next appearance is scheduled for March 29.

Response

While responding to the call of a bank robbery, police were suprised to find the alleged robber still in the bank when they arrived. Bank business looked to be going on as usual when Kitsap County sheriff’s deputy Clinton Bergeron arrived. He reported asking a departing bank customer if a robbery was underway. “He said ‘no,’” Bergeron said. Bank employees also said that the bank was not being robbed when asked by police.

According to police, bank employees said no robbery was underway, but that an “upset” woman was in an office with the bank’s manager. As police stood just outside the manager’s office and motioned for the manager to come out, she sat there. Bergeron said he mouthed the words “does she have a bomb?”

“She mouthed back ‘yes,” he said.

The bank robbery response changed and the bomb squad was called as the owners and patrons of Our Place Bar and grill next door were warned to evacuate and businesses across Silverdale Way were advised to keep clear of large plate glass windows for fear of blast debris. Silverdale Way was shutdown from Bucklin Hill Road to Linder Road and a bomb robot was deployed.

During the robbery, police and sheriff’s deputies surrounding the bank and carried AR-15 semiautomatic assault weapons as they mostly hid behind vehicles. Many were clearly nervous and handled their weapons as if it were their first time. One deputy struggled with his loaded weapon when trying to shoo-off a person walking through the controlled corridor. A Bremerton patrolman handled his rifle as he chased a blowing piece of paper down the road during the standoff.

Reports from witnesses listening to pocket scanners and smartphone scanners on the scene said that a woman walked into the bank with a bomb. Many on the street passed along a story that Hoem had walked into the bank and placed a bomb on an employee’s neck demanding money.

At some point during the robbery, the mother of one, told the bank manager that she was being forced to rob them by four men, according to court documents. To ensure she did the job, the men were watching her son at his Port Orchard school on Mullinex Road. Hoem was to get $50,000 from the bank and give the money to the men during a meet up at the East Bremerton Wal-Mart on Wheaton Way, according to court documents.

In response, police ordered a lockdown at the Mullinex Ridge Elementary School in Port Orchard as soon as they learned the name of Hoem’s son. Shortly after, police released the school saying there was no threat.

“We had no credible information about anyone being at the school that would have caused abnormal alarm,” said deputy Ben Herrin.

While at the school, police learned from the boy’s father that Hoem had mental problems and was taking medication.

Following Hoem’s arrest, a bomb technician entered the bank and left several times before police began to slowly return the busy commercial corridor to normal.

A group of pet shop employees at Naturally 4 Paws said that as police began to fill the strip mall parking lot authorities entered the store, caring AR-15 rifles and warned them to get away from the windows.

“They were worried about shrapnel,” employee Matt Hornburg said

From a safe room in the back of the pet store, Hornburg said he was able to find about what was going directly across the street by checking Facebook on his smartphone.

Nino Bokuku, 37, said he got off work at the Olive Garden at 3 p.m. and traffic was backed up on Randall Way. He parked his car in the parking lot of Grocery Outlet, across the street from KeyBank, and was later told by a sheriff’s deputy to move his car further away.

“He told me the area needed to be cleared. It’s surprising to me that something like this would happen in the middle of the day,” Bokuku said.

Nearby businesses evacuated or closed for the day.

Sharon Turner, 59, who had intended to go shopping at Grocery Outlet thought that there was a car wreck that had caused all the traffic backup.

“You never think nothing like this would happen,” she said. “I’ve lived here all my life.”

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