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Bomb threat suspect says he'll be his own attorney

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

The Washington man accused of making a bomb threat at Park University recently has told the court he intends to represent himself as his case makes its way through the legal system.

"That could change, but that is his indication at this point," Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd told The Landmark this week.

Brett S. Tanis, 40, is charged with the Class D felony of making a terrorist threat. He has entered a plea of not guilty and declined the services of a public defender in a court appearance held Jan. 17.

Zahnd said the case is now set for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 14.

"He currently does not have an attorney and it does not sound like he wants an attorney. It sounds like he wants to represent himself," Zahnd said, before quickly adding: "That often changes.”

In a related move, Zahnd explained that a female member of the Park University staff is seeking an order of protection from Tanis. A court hearing on that request for an order of protection was set for this week. Parkville Police Chief Bill Hudson recently said that Tanis had "taken a shine" to a female staff member at the university prior to his alleged bomb threat on Jan. 12.

Zahnd said Tanis remains in custody in Platte County Jail, where he is held on a cash-only bond of $15,000.

According to court documents, at around 9:20 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, Tanis entered McKay Hall on the Park University campus and "burst in" the university president's office, which was unoccupied at the time, and slammed the door.

The administrative assistant for the president reported that Tanis came out of the office and she directed him to leave. Tanis went back into the president's office and the assistant pressed the panic alarm and went into the hallway. Tanis then came into the hallway and was advised that security had been called.

Park University Director of Public Safety Pete Sturner made contact with Tanis and told him to leave the university property but Tanis refused. Sturner reported that Tanis made statements regarding "explosives" and indicated that he was at the university to test security.

Authorities allege Tanis also entered the office of the College of Distant Learning and made contact with Park University official Dr. Brian Davis. Tanis told Davis that he had driven to the university from Washington State and was there to talk about security. Tanis allegedly referred to the underground space at the college as a "bunker" and stated "Anyone with explosives could come right in there and cause a problem.”

Parkville Police Chief Bill Hudson explained what happened.

"We got called up to the college (when) a strange fellow wandered in and made himself at home in the president's office. He made strange comments that alarmed the people there," Hudson said.

As he was being escorted out of the building, the suspect made a comment to the effect that there were explosives in his pickup parked near the university's administration building, according to Hudson.

Police evacuated the school buildings. The Kansas City Bomb Squad was called to the scene and used its motorized robot to check out the pickup truck. It was discovered the tarp over the bed of the truck was attached with bungee cords and ratchet straps, so it was necessary for officers in bomb suits to get to the truck to undo those attachments. Then the robot approached the truck, which was a Ford Ranger, and pulled off the tarp, Hudson explained.

"There was nothing in there but his personal belongings," Hudson said.

Hudson said the suspect made many comments during his time at the college, most of which were incoherent.


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