ROSEVILLE (WWJ) – The “all-clear” has been given at a metro Detroit Walmart after a suspicious package that resembled a bomb was discovered inside the store in what police say was a “set of perfect circumstances” set off hours earlier by a man screaming death threats.
Roseville Police Chief James Berlin said the evacuation was ordered just before 9 a.m. Tuesday after an employee discovered a black backpack with wires sticking out of the bag, near the store’s entranceway.READ MORE: Science of Weather: Sea Life Michigan Turtles
“As a precaution, we’ve evacuated the entire store and the entire surrounding area,” he said. “It’s inside the market doors, somewhere near the grocery section of the store.”
The bomb squad responded to the store, located at the corner of 12 Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue in the Roseville Towne Center, and used a robot to investigate the backpack. After authorities determined the package wasn’t a threat, the “all-clear” was given around 11 a.m.
Investigators quickly viewed store surveillance footage to identify a suspect. Berlin said the video shows a black man entering the store through the main doors and walking around for about five minutes. The man then dropped the backpack near an aisle before nonchalantly exiting the store.
“We do have some pictures, we believe, of the person who left the device behind — or the package,” said Berlin. “We’ll try to identify him and then we’ll go from there.”
A short distance away from the backpack, workers also found a letter with threats against the store. Investigators initially thought the note was connected to the backpack but have since said the note is unrelated. It was apparently left behind by a disgruntled employee who recently lost their job, Berlin said. That person was taken into custody and referred for treatment of a mental illness.
“The note is totally separate from this backpack with wires protruding from it. It was some type of suicide note, from what we’re understanding now,” said Berlin. “We have interviewed him, we have confirmed that he did not leave the backpack.”
Police said the situation was heightened by a “set of perfect circumstances” that occurred at the store over the prior 12 hours. Late Monday afternoon, a man entered the Walmart store wearing a camouflage-colored backpack and screamed, “Death to the honkies” and “Death to Obama,” according to police. By the time officers arrived at the store, the suspect had fled the scene.
Then at approximately 3 a.m. on Tuesday, police say a former Walmart employee came into the store to clean out his locker — the same employee who left the note. As the man spoke to store management, he allegedly made several statements that led management to believe that he intended to harm himself. Police responded to the store and after talking to the man, he was taken into custody “for his own protection” and transported to an area hospital for evaluation.READ MORE: Motown Museum Set To Reopen This Weekend With Expansion Project Near Completion
Police say it was just a coincidence that the note was left in the same proximity as the suspicious backpack.
“Needless to say after the past 12 hours, store employees were on edge with each subsequent incident causing additional anxiety,” police said in a statement.
Other businesses nearby were evacuated during the investigation, including the Five Below store where Jennifer Johnson was working. She was especially concerned after hearing rumors that multiple packages were found.
“I heard there’s three possible bombs, two in the parking lot and one in the Walmart building,” Johnson told WWJ’s Scott Ryan. “They’ve blocked most of the parking lot off and now they’re having us at Five Below evacuating. I don’t know if they’re really bombs or what.”
While WWJ was on the phone with Johnson, officers entered the store.
“Shut this door now for the time being, until we figure out what that stuff is in the parking lot,” the officer said. “We’re setting a perimeter. We’ve got to get everybody out of this building.”
It’s unclear how long the package was in Walmart, which is open 24-hours, before it was discovered by employees.
No injuries were reported.MORE NEWS: Senate GOP Facing Criticism Following Insulin Cap Vote
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