A teen Ferris High School student has been identified as a suspect of two pop bottle explosions on campus Wednesday morning, which prompted school officials to evacuate the campus.
Fire officials confirm they have identified a juvenile suspect who quickly confessed to their role in setting off two pop bottle bombs at the South Hill high school.
At 8 :45 a.m. a pop bottle device exploded in the boys bathroom of the F building on the Ferris High School campus.
"We cleared the second floor of our F building fairly shortly thereafter, because we could smell it and right away we think is there something that could hurt somebody here, so we cleared those kids out," Ferris High School Principal Kevin Foster said.
Firefighters said the device was a two-liter pop bottle filled with household cleaners. A school custodian experienced some skin irritation while cleaning up the chemicals, which Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams characterized as a minor burn to the custodian's hand.
"Others were having a couple respiratory problems from breathing the fumes," Chief Williams added.
Students were allowed back into F building but then, at 11:15, another explosion rang through the halls from near the commons eating area. Junior Carlos Fuentes was in the bathroom right when the second soda bottle went off.
"I was just about to wash my hands in the sink, when I hear like 'Ommm,' like something explodes really huge," Fuentes said.
Fuentes quickly ran out of the bathroom, he said, startled and confused.
"In my mind, in the moment, I was like 'I don’t know what was going to happen,'" he said.
After the second pop bottle detonated in the commons area the decision was made to evacuate the campus.
"It was because of the multiple occurrences that we realized we needed to take some action and make sure the kids were safe," Foster said.
"All Ferris High School students are being released early today as a precaution, so that fire department officials can continue their investigation of the materials that caused the two plastic bottle explosions today. Students who ride the bus will be taken home on their regular routes," Kristy Mylroie from Spokane Schools said in a media release shortly after the decision to evacuate was made.
As the evacuation commenced, some students describe the situation as anything but orderly.
"It was insane," junior Ashley Wright said. "Everyone was freaking out, like they were like 'What's going on?'"
Some students heard the explosions, others did not. They knew something was up, they just didn't know exactly what it was.
"Because of all the shootings, I remember reading about another shooting two days ago, I was like 'Oh my gosh what is going on is this a shooting?" Wright said.
The police department commented about the incident via Twitter, calling the situation "more of a malicious mischief nuisance than any threat to students," and identified in broad strokes, the device that exploded as a "distraction device."
"These devices are not all that uncommon," Spokane Police Captain Brad Arleth said. "It's not common for us to have two in one day at a school. However, I do want to emphasize these type of items are not inherently dangerous."
Adams Elementary, located across 37th Avenue from Ferris High School, was not evacuated.
Police officers and firefighters swept through the school, checking every classroom and hallway for other devices, to ensure the school is safe to return to Thursday. Police are looking through surveillance video to try and identify a suspect. Several students were questioned by authorities but no arrests have been made.
"There's two or three people maybe who did this, maybe there's just one, and wrecked the school day for everyone else who came here to work on their education today," Arleth said.
A Spokane Schools spokesperson said she couldn't remember the last time the district had experienced something like the incident at Ferris Wednesday morning. They added, however, that this is finals week and classes will resume Thursday.
Fire officials said that these types of incidents are common across the country during finals week. Freshman Meg Perry had her own opinion on why someone might have set off the pop bottle bombs.
"I don't know. I think it's just a kid trying to get out of finals," she said.
The Spokane Fire Department said that, after conducting interviews and searching the school property, they have determined there is no longer a threat to the campus, and normal operations will resume at Ferris Thursday morning.
As for the suspect, he may face criminal charges and face financial restitution for the public safety response. It's not known yet what punishment he could face from the Spokane School District.