Suspicious Package Causes Mall Evacuation

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

January 4, 2006

There was a scare at the Fashion Square Mall Wednesday as shoppers were told to get out around noon because of a suspicious package.

After a lengthy investigation, word on the package is that it was just a small bag, or possibly even suitcase, but not a bomb as originally thought. Now, things are back to normal for shoppers.

"I saw the fire trucks pull up, I saw the police officer turn his lights on, and the mall supervisor...turned his lights on. They just parked, and then started taping things up," said Roy Burton, a witness outside the mall.

Things came to a screeching halt just two minutes before noon Wednesday, when Fashion Square Mall officials called police, telling them a suspicious package was found inside the mall.

"They had located a small suitcase or bag in the men's bathroom on the north side of the mall that kind of peaked their suspicions that it might be something that should be looked into," said Lieutenant Jim Bond, of the Albemarle County Police Department.

Albemarle County Police dispatchers sent several police to the scene, and after locating the suspicious item, police decided to tape off the area.

"Which led us to contacting the State Police and getting their bomb technicians out here to check to see if in fact it was an explosive device," said Lt. Bond.

Those outside the mall were not the only ones affected. Some inside also learned something was going on.

"I was just shopping, and proceeded to leave past Shapiro's, and the hallway was blocked off. The security guard told me that I would have to find another way out of the building," said Vivian Himes, a witness inside the mall.

When customers were cleared from this corner of the mall, a bomb technician and robot from Virginia State Police moved in to get an up close look of the suspicious package.

Thanks to the help of the special robot getting the first look, almost four hours later fire officials determined the package not to be an explosive, and were able to destroy what ever it was.

The on-site investigation may be over, but a more in-depth investigation continues. The case is now being handed over to the fire marshal's office to determine just why the package left there in the first place. Was it a mistake, or intentional?

Police only blocked off the north side of the mall because they say that was the only area they believed to have been threatened.

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