A Washington County bank was robbed within minutes of bomb threats that closed two high schools for the day and authorities are investigating whether the incidents are related.
Southwest Regional police Chief John Hartman said no evidence ties the three together yet, but police are looking into the possibility that the unfounded threats were an effort to divert attention from the robbery.
With three incidents happening about the same time in a small area, "It would defy logic for you not to wonder whether they were, in fact, related," Chief Hartman said.
About 9:30 a.m., police received word from a Bentworth School District official that someone called to say a pressure-cooker bomb was inside the high school.
Local fire officials, police officers and EMS were already close by at a prom safety event and went to the school.
Minutes later, police learned that a man robbed the PNC Bank branch on Wilson Road in Bentleyville.
After that, California Area School District reported a similar threat targeting its high school.
Both school buildings were checked and no credible threats found, Chief Hartman said. Both threats were called in with what sounded like a woman's raspy voice, police said.
Students were sent home for the day.
"We didn't feel as though they were in any danger, but just as a precaution," said California Borough police Chief Rick Encapera.
The bank robbery suspect is described as being in his 20s or 30s, around 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10 with a thin to medium build. Police said he had a beard and mustache and wore jeans and a ball cap under a hoodie, according to a press release from the FBI, which is assisting in that part of the investigation.
The man left the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash in a dark-colored late-model sedan, possibly a Dodge.
The FBI asked anyone with information to call its Pittsburgh field office at 412-432-4000, the Southwest Regional police at 724-929-8484 or the Pennsylvania State Police in the Belle Vernon barracks at 724-929-6262.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions is helping Southwest Regional in the bomb threat investigation. The Pittsburgh bomb squad assisted.
Molly Born: email@example.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.