Bomb scare suspects charged in Portsmouth

The two people captured in what turned out to be a major bomb scare last week, will face charges in Scioto County in addition to their original charges filed in Lewis County, Kentucky.

Mason Bertram, 29, of Garrison, Kentucky, is charged with being a fugitive from justice from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and Sammy Bertram, 44, of Argillite, Kentucky, faces a felony charge of inducing panic.

On Tuesday May 31, 2016, at approximately 2:45 p.m., deputies from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office pursued a fleeing vehicle into the City of Portsmouth. The deputies had previously received information that led them to believe the vehicle contained an explosive device.

The occupants attempted to abandon the vehicle in an alley between third and fourth streets, just east of Gay street. The area was adjacent to the Shawnee State University campus. One of the occupants fled on foot while two others were apprehended.

Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware said Mason Bertram appeared to be suffering from an overdose and was treated at Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) before being incarcerated in the Scioto County Jail. Ware said Sammy Betram was covered in gasoline and also required treatment at SOMC before incarceration.

Based upon the tip received, the gasoline inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle and other observations, an immediate evacuation of the area was conducted. Four buildings on Shawnee State University campus were evacuated and mass notification of students, faculty, and staff was initiated. In addition to the campus buildings, a federal office housing the Social Security Administration, a state property housing the Bureau of Worker Compensation, and local businesses were evacuated as a precaution. In addition, several residents housing Shawnee State University students were evacuated.

Because there were federal buildings involved in the vicinity of the incident, the Department of Homeland Security was also present at the scene.

Multiple city streets were closed to vehicle traffic by Portsmouth Police Officers, with the assistance of Shawnee State University Department of Public Safety Officers, and Troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

With the assistance of an explosive canine from Ohio University Police Department and bomb technicians from the City of Columbus Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire, the vehicle was breached and deemed clear of explosives.

Agencies responding included the Portsmouth Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Lewis County, Kentucky Sheriff Department, Shawnee State University Department of Public Safety, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service, Portsmouth Fire Department, Columbus Division of Fire, Ohio State Fire Marshall Office, and Portsmouth Ambulance.

In addition, the assistance of Shawnee State University Staff was instrumental in assuring minimal disruption to campus operations while ensuring the safety of Shawnee State University students, faculty, and staff. The Salvation Army provided food and water to first responders during the six hour operation.

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By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.