MATTOON, Ill. (WICS/WCCU) — “I have two pipe bombs inside here right now and I have my M16 ready to start shooting people.”
These are the chilling words of a 911 call Mattoon Police Department received on March 6 about a threat to a local church.
Fox Illinois obtained the exclusive audio as police continue to search for the anonymous caller.
Both the pastor and police chief are thankful the chilling threat never came true, but say the timing of it is suspicious.
The call came two days after a heated debate about replacing Cole County's opening prayer during its board meetings with a moment of silence.
Pastor Dan Haifley of Maranatha Baptist Church spoke openly against it.
"We wondered if it was linked, if someone saw it in the papers,” he said. “Maybe someone saw what we were doing and decided they were going throw a little scare our way."
Haifley said he can’t get the 911 call out of his head.
"I’ve listened to it several times to hear his voice and try to figure out what he was thinking,” Haifley said.
That Wednesday night, Tammy Courtney was in the back room teaching bible study to about seven kids.
“I could tell the kids were looking at the door and I turned around and there was some guy standing there,” she said.
It was the Mattoon Police Department dressed in full gear to warn her about the threat.
"It was just one of those things, we got the kids in the kitchen...tried to sing Jesus loves me really softly with them,” Courtney said.
Mattoon Police Chief Jason Taylor has been actively working on this case.
“It's something you never expect to hear. We certainly never expected to have a school shooting in our city and we never expected to possibly have an active mass violence at a church,” Chief Taylor said.
Investigators have served six search warrants to phone companies to trace the call through a spoofed number, but so far, no luck.
The FBI recently got involved after the call was traced to a phone company in Hong Kong.
“Someone is going to recognize that voice and I wouldn't be surprised if we haven't talked to the person who called,” Chief Taylor said. “The voice sounds eerily familiar to me."
While the threat turned out to be a hoax, the person who placed this call would be charged with making a terrorist threat, which is a Class X felony and could face six to 30 years in prison.
"If we can find out who did this, I am sure they will feel the full weight of the court on their person,” Chief Taylor said.
Mattoon police say, "This hoax is viewed as an assault on basic religious freedoms enjoyed by all Citizens."
Anyone with information is asked to call Mattoon Police at 235-5451 or Coles County Crime Stoppers at 1-866-345-8488.