Bomb threats force about 200 from two stores Eldersburg Wal-Mart, Giant are evacuated

October 02, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Bomb threats forced the evacuation of about 200 shoppers and employees from Wal-Mart and Giant in Eldersburg yesterday, state police said.

Customers and employees were ushered to safety on the stores' parking lots within minutes, although several shoppers briefly protested, wanting to complete transactions.

State police were alerted to the first threat by Wal-Mart employees at 12: 50 p.m. Troopers blocked entrances to the parking lot along Routes 26 and 32.

At 1: 30 p.m., Giant Food, adjacent to Wal-Mart along Route 32, received a bomb threat.

In each case, the employee receiving the call described the voice as that of a middle-aged woman, leading investigators to ++ conclude the same person made both threats, police said.

"The caller said, 'Listen to me. Listen to me. A bomb is going to go off,' " police said.

Dogs trained to sniff for explosives were brought in to search both stores. No bombs were found, and the businesses reopened within about 90 minutes. No one was injured, police said.

John Barnwell, the Wal-Mart manager, said it took about 3 1/2 minutes to evacuate his store.

Barnwell said company policy for handling emergencies was followed. He said a "code blue" was announced, alerting employees to a bomb threat, and a storewide announcement was made, asking customers to leave because of a power failure.

"We never want to create a panic by announcing there may be a bomb in the store," he said.

"A few guests -- about eight to 10 -- were allowed to complete purchases," he said. "Some were not allowed to get into line at registers, but were asked to leave."

At Giant, some customers finished checking out and some were instructed to abandon carts filled with food items and go outside, said Barry Scher, a spokesman for the grocery chain.

Ron Caudill, general manager of the Giant store, said he was instructed by police to get everyone out of the store and did within a few minutes.

Pub Date: 10/02/98

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