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Posted at 04:24 PM ET, 06/13/2011

McLean woman ‘involuntarily committed’ in alleged Red Line bomb threat

[This story was originally posted at 8:39 a.m. with updates at 12:15 p.m., 1:50 p.m. and 2:33 p.m. Stay with PostLocal.com as more information becomes available.]

A 51-year-old Mclean woman was “involuntarily committed” after she allegedly made a bomb threat aboard a Red Line train Monday morning, panicking fellow riders and causing train delays, according to officials.

The bomb scare took place at 7:45 a.m. when an eight-car train bound for Twinbrook was leaving the station, according to Metro Transit Deputy Police Chief Ron Pavlik.

The woman, whose name was being withheld, dropped to her knees and said, “You killed my family. Now I’m going to kill you all,” Pavlik said

Passengers on the train alerted the operator over the intercom, and the operator stopped the train, Metro said.

About 35 passengers exited the stopped train and began walking in the track bed to Twinbrook, Stessel said. Once operators realized passengers were in the rail bed the power was immediately shut down, he said, and remained suspended for two hours.

The suspect got off the train with other passengers and did not resist when she was apprehended in the Kiss & Ride area by a Federal Protective Security officer, Pavlik said. The woman was pointed out to police by customers, according to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Stessel said the woman was undergoing a mental health evaluation at a local hospital, which can take four to six hours; by Monday afternoon, the woman had been “involuntarily committed” at a facility that “has better resources to handle mental issues,”Stessel said.

Stessel said the woman is a not U.S. citizen but she is a permanent resident. Her name is being withheld because charges are pending depending on her mental health evaluation, he said.

“During a mental health evaluation, police are not permitted to talk to the individual,” Stessel wrote in an e-mail. “As a result, we have been unable to get additional information about what the woman meant when she said ‘You killed my family…’ ”

There were 250 to 300 customers aboard the inbound train at Rockville when the incident happened, Stessel said. There were a “handful” of customers who were going to Shady Grove on the other track, he said.

Metro and emergency officials said there was no evidence that there was an explosive device, but the threat shut down rail service at Rockville Station for about two hours. The station reopened about 9:45 a.m., according to reports from Metro.

Trains were temporarily stopped between Shady Grove and Grosvenor. Shuttle bus service was established to transport passengers. Passengers who were on the train described a chaotic scene.

Commuter Tarek Nasser said the woman who allegedly caused the disturbance boarded the train at Shady Grove. The woman dropped to her knees and appeared to start praying. Later, the woman, who was wearing a hijab, began ranting about Muslim Americans on a cellphone, Nasser said.

Nasser recounted that the woman said, “‘I’m going to destroy the office.’” At another point, Nasser said the woman said “‘I’m going to visit the tomb at Rockville station.’”

Before the train left Rockville Station Nasser said the woman said, “‘God bless you all’” and got off the train. The doors closed and the train began moving. At that point, a passenger called the driver on an intercom, Nasser said. The train stopped and riders began panicking, he said. 

Commuters attempted to flee from the car where the threat was made. Passengers moved toward the front of the train, passing between the doors that connect the cars, several passengers said.

“I’ve never seen such panic before,” said passenger Scott Brooks. [The people at the front of the group] didn’t stop to explain. You could see they were really scared.”

Robin Ratliff, who lives in Rockville and works downtown as a staff assistant for a human resources firm, said she was on the first car of the train headed to downtown Monday morning when the incident occurred.

Ratliff said people started “pouring in” from the third car of the train, where the woman who made the alleged threat was.

“They were pounding on the train operator’s door saying let us off; stop the train.” But Ratliff said some passengers opened the door of the train and managed to get out on the track bed.

“The operator was telling central [command] she couldn’t move the train because ‘there’s people on my track.’ ”

“People were panicked and running, trying to get off,” Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff said she did not see the woman who made the alleged threat, but heard other passengers running into the first car where Ratcliff was, saying the woman said “Praise Allah. I’m going to kill the world,” before throwing a backpack onto the train and exiting.

Ratcliff said she and others were evacuated from the train and the station before the station was shut down for several hours. Ratcliff said she went back home to let things settle down before returning around 10 and heading to work.

As service returned to normal along the Red Line, a few customers said they were relieved it wasn’t a serious incident but expressed concern about safety on Metro.

Kathy Josephson, who was waiting for a bus at Rockville Station, said she would like to see more police and security in the transit system.

“Every time you go on Metro you’re taking a chance when you ride with your safety and security,” she said. Josephson said she hoped the woman would be charged with making a threat so it would deter others.

“You don’t play around and make threats like that,” she said. “It makes me nervous. They’re playing with my life and they should be in jail. There’s too many people doing crazy stuff.”

Denise Brown, the station manager on duty at Rockville, said she arrived at 4:40 a.m. Monday; she received a call about the bomb threat around 7:30 a.m.

Brown said said she went up to the platform to help people disembark from the stopped train.

“It was busy and crazy because people wanted to get off,” she said. She said the platform and station were evacuated in about 40 minutes, as authorities took over the scene.

She said most people were calm.

“I just wanted everybody to get out of here so nothing would happen to them,” Brown said.

Were you aboard the train or affected by this morning’s disruption? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to transportation@washpost.com?

By and  |  04:24 PM ET, 06/13/2011

 
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