Dorn VA Medical Center (Image: Dept. of Veterans Affairs)
A former Columbia volunteer firefighter pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to sending false text messages about a bomb at a veterans hospital.
Prosecutors said 21-year-old Karry Taylor sent the texts so other fire stations would respond to the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center hospital in January 2016, thus freeing up his own station to respond to any other calls that happened.
According to court evidence, three individuals received a text message from an unknown South Carolina telephone number about the threat. One of the texts stated, “Hey Montana, this is Sosa. Omar said he put a bomb in the parking lot or something…in the VA hospital on Garners Ferry Road. I am scared and I don’t know what to do.” The three individuals each notified law enforcement authorities. As a result, the Columbia Police Department, the Columbia Fire Department, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Police Department responded and placed the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in lockdown and swept the parking area for explosives. After three hours, first responders deemed the texts a hoax.
The FBI said its investigators were able to link the texts back to a cellphone and email account belonging to Taylor. Agents said Taylor admitted to sending the texts to random numbers when confronted in an effort to draw other fire engines to the Dorn VA in hopes that his fire station would then be called to respond to any other calls that occurred during that timeframe.
Taylor faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines when he is convicted at a later day. Federal law also requires he reimburse the state and local agencies who responded to the January 2016 incident.