BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Some Biloxi hotel guests said they were still feeling groggy hours after having to flee their rooms in the middle of the night. Around 1 am Thursday morning, Biloxi police dispatch received a report that a man staying at the Best Western Plus on Highway 90 claimed he had a bomb. Officers said Robert Poole, 56, was suicidal and said he had an explosive device.
Eventually Biloxi police learned there was no bomb, but it took hours for negotiators to talk Poole into surrendering. In the meantime, dozens of hotel guests say they could do nothing but wait while trying to stay warm and stay awake.
On very little sleep, Gail Deal and her husband loaded up their car for the next leg of their Gulf Coast vacation. The Indiana couple's rest was cut short.
"The phone rang and we thought it was just a mistake. We ignored it pretty much," said Deal. "Then somebody beat on the door and told us they had to evacuate because there was a bomb threat. Gave us as little time as possible to get out. Grab your jacket and go. That's what we did."
The people staying the hotel ranged from newlyweds to California law school students. Guests said they didn't have to wait long to find out what was going on.
Anna Davis is an instructor with University of California Irvine Law School. She is in Mississippi with a group of law school students doing volunteer work. She helped get the students out of their rooms during the evacuation.
"The police were very informative," said Davis. "They told us there was a gentleman in a room who was locked up, had called in a bomb threat and said he was going to go up with the room when he blew it up."
Pam Broome of Lucedale was also staying at the hotel with her husband. She shared cell phone video with WLOX that showed an operation Biloxi police said included the SWAT team, Bomb Squad and hostage negotiators.
After four hours, officers arrested Poole and charged him with False Report of an Explosive Device. Broome said when the guests were told they could return to their rooms around 5am, she saw Poole.
"We walked around and the police car was right here and had him beside the car," said Broome. "My husband and I come walking up the sidewalk. I started to take a picture of him, but the way he was looking at us, it was like he was ready to kill us. So we went on in the room. Both of us were exhausted."
Police said false reporting of an explosive device is a felony charge. A judge issued a $25,000 bond for Poole.