Roland Arel's alleged bomb threat leads to five-hour ordeal for bus passengers

A bus ride from Salt Lake City to Denver is a long haul under the best circumstances. Add a bomb threat to the mix and the destination changes to Suck City.

That's what happened for passengers in two Trailways buses, and law enforcers say Roland Arel is the man to thank for it.

Larimer County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Schulz lays out the details.

At around 5:14 a.m. yesterday, Schulz says, the LCSO received a call from one of two Trailways buses headed southbound on Highway 287 north of Fort Collins. The driver of the first vehicle announced that a man later identified as Arel, a 67-year-old transient from Sacramento, California, had made a threat. Schulz can't say exactly what Arel allegedly uttered, "but generally, he told witnesses he had a bomb and he was going to detonate it."

Authorities told the driver to head to the Ranch at Interstate 25 and Crossroads Boulevard, using a cover story about mechanical problems so as not to freak out the passengers. The second bus followed, with the passengers of each disembarking, supposedly so repairs could be done.

There was, however, one exception: Arel, who stayed on the second bus. So, Schulz says, deputies called the driver of vehicle two and had him pass the phone to Arel. According to Schulz, "We didn't talk to him very long before he came out of the bus. He was taken into custody without incident."

That hardly ended the ordeal. Once the buses were empty, three separate searches of each were conducted. "The first one was by a robot that had, I think, some kind of X-ray device on it," Schulz notes. "The second one was by a specially trained canine unit that came up out of Jefferson County. And then the bomb technicians themselves searched the luggage manually."

Why search both buses when Arel had been on the second one? "The first bus got involved because the driver of the second bus told the driver of the first bus about the threat, and then the first driver called us," Schulz explains. "And they have a protocol that the second bus always follows the first bus. So we had the first bus go to the Ranch to isolate the situation and have a place to put the passengers. And we wanted to be extra cautious in also searching the first bus, since the two of them were traveling together and there could have been the possibility that he put something on the first bus."

Turns out he hadn't, and the passengers of the second bus (except Arel, of course) were finally allowed to be on their way at around 10 a.m. -- approximately five hours after the situation began. Arel has been "charged with felony menacing and what's essentially a hoax bomb threat," Schulz adds. "The statute he's charged under is the same statute as if he actually had a bomb, but one of the subsections deals with hoaxes."

Arel is currently getting an up-close-and-personal look at the Larimer County Jail -- which you can bet wasn't on his original itinerary. Look below to see a larger version of his mug shot, followed by 9News' report on the incident.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Jennifer Gomes, PE teacher, allegedly left bomb threat because she didn't want to be at school."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts