"I think it's chicken sh*t the way the FBI handled it. I have a responsibility to protect my citizens," Otero County Sheriff Benny House told ABC 7 Monday. "I think it's paramount that we know what the threat is so we can provide safety."
The observatory, and the post office on the same property, were mysteriously shut down on September 6, Sputnik News reported. At the time, House said "there was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers, but nobody would tell us anything."
The sheriff said the FBI asked his team for help evacuating, but when he was up there, he couldn't perceive any threats. "We hung out for a little while; then we left. No reason for us to be there. Nobody would tell us what we're supposed to be watching out for."
The organization that runs facility — the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) — has been reticent about the situation from the get-go. Spokeswoman Shari Lifson said that it was AURA's decision to evacuate, but that she wasn't even sure when the facility was vacated.
Many online observers of the closure surmised that aliens were behind it, but experts who spoke with Sputnik News said that was unlikely. There was so much speculation about extraterrestrials that a spokesperson for the observatory had to come out and say "it definitely wasn't aliens."
Then, when AURA announced the observatory's re-opening on September 16, it merely cited a "precautionary measure while addressing a security issue" as the reason for the evacuation.
The organization said that residents who had left the area would be returning to their homes as well. "We became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents."
"Is there a bomb threat? Is there an active shooter? Is it chemical?" Sheriff House wondered "We need to know so we know what kind of manpower to send up there, and without knowing, it's dangerous for everybody."
Both House and local media say they have tried repeatedly to get answers from the FBI, to no avail.