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Shoppers, employees evacuation from Hagerstown Wal-Mart

January 22, 2006|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Wal-Mart was closed for about 90 minutes Saturday afternoon because of a threat, Hagerstown Police said.

Sgt. Paul Kifer would not call it a bomb threat, although a Maryland State Police bomb expert helped police investigate the call.

Kifer also would not say that someone called the store, only that the store received the threat.

About 3:30 p.m., the store was evacuated, creating a heavy flow of traffic as customers drove away.

Employees also were evacuated. Many stood in the parking lot and waited, unsure when or if they would be allowed back in.

Shortly after 5 p.m., dozens of employees were told it was safe for them to go back in the store, although they didn't have to if they weren't comfortable. They also were instructed not to handle anything that looked suspicious.

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About 15 minutes later, a small crowd of arriving customers who had gathered outside the front door also was allowed into the store.

Kifer said the threat did not specifically refer to anything being placed in the store.

Erring on the side of caution, Wal-Mart store management called the Hagerstown Police Department after the threat was made, Kifer said.

He said there was nothing to tie this threat to recent bomb threats reported at Washington County Public Schools or a caller alleging anthrax was used to contaminate the second floor of Hagerstown City Hall, but all of the calls are being investigated similarly.

Kifer said the city and fire marshal's offices helped investigate.

Police asked for a detection dog, too, but one wasn't available, he said.

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