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Sat, Dec. 14

Man booked re: VOC bomb threat case

Michael Willis Chase

Michael Willis Chase

VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK -- A man taken into custody Thursday after he allegedly told bank staff he had a bomb in a nearby van and smashed glass is facing multiple charges, according to a news release.

Michael Willis Chase, 48, of Sedona, was taken into custody Thursday at the Chase Bank location in the Village of Oak Creek, along State Route 179, at the intersection where Jacks Canyon Road becomes Verde Valley School Road, moments after his alleged offenses.

At about 12:20 p.m., Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to the bank regarding a man inside yelling and claiming he had a bomb, the release states. The suspect allegedly had walked into the bank, demanding staff close his account, in addition to making statements about possessing a bomb.

Chase also allegedly told the bank employees that he had a second bomb inside his van, parked outside next to the bank. He was wearing a poncho that covered most of his upper body and appeared to be carrying a cell phone and a box-like object.

Bank employees activated an alarm and evacuated the building; deputies arrived within minutes to contain the bank and create a safety zone for pedestrians and vehicles. Dispatch personnel notified adjacent businesses regarding the situation while directing evacuation.

Other law enforcement agencies assisted, included the Sedona Police Department and the Department of Public Safety.

A U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer arrived and made contact with the suspect inside the bank. By this time, the suspect had shattered a bank window with an unknown object.

The officer attempted to subdue the suspect with pepper spray, which had minimal effect. A deputy arrived to assist, and due to the suspect’s uncooperative actions, aggressive behavior, and threat to the nearby public, a Taser stun gun was deployed.

The Taser allowed deputies to successfully handcuff him and remove him from the bank.

The Department of Public Safety’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, or bomb squad, was called to the incident to check for any explosive devices inside the bank or the suspect’s mustard colored van. None were found.

The area around the bank, including Highway 179, was closed, off and on, for nearly five hours due to public safety concerns.

Chase was booked into the Camp Verde Detention Center on charges that include misconduct regarding a simulated explosive device, terrorist threats, false reporting and vandalism. His bond was later set at $500,000, cash only.

Detectives from the Criminal Investigations Bureau were conducting a follow-up investigation Friday, interviewing more than 12 witnesses to the incident.

Additional charges are possible. There were only state charges filed against Chase initially; the FBI was notified, but might not be involved, since there does not appear to be a robbery motive.

Chase does have an account at the branch of the bank that happens to be of the same Chase name. It wasn’t clear, in a brief scan of Arizona court records, if the suspect has a criminal history.

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A bomb squad was called in Thursday to Chase Bank in the Village of Oak Creek. No explosives were found. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

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