Flares, not pipe bombs, ignited at Lake Wales mall, officials say
ABC News(LAKE WALES, Fla.) — A day after police said two pipe bombs detonated in an unpopulated part of a mall in Lake Wales, Florida, the FBI now believes the incident was caused by a pair of marine flares.
“There is no indication of any explosion at the mall and no pipe bombs were found,” according to a statement released Monday by the FBI’s Tampa field office. “It appears two items, believed to be marine flares, were ignited in a mall hallway, creating a large amount of smoke, and a backpack was located at the scene.”
Bomb technicians “examined the contents of the backpack and determined it did not contain any incendiary or explosive devices,” the statement said.
Any fears of terrorism have so far been ruled out.
“There is no current indication of any terrorist connection to this incident,” the statement added.
A statement published on the Eagle Ridge Mall’s website echoed the FBI, saying that “two signal flares triggered a fire alarm” and that it was open for business.
It was a different story Sunday night, however.
The reports coming from local authorities suggested the mall had sustained some kind of nefarious attack.
Authorities said Sunday evening that two improvised explosive devices had detonated in the corridor of the mall.
After Lake Wales police arrived, the mall was quickly evacuated and a perimeter established. No injuries were reported.
Emergency personnel from surrounding counties responded to the mall around 5:30 p.m. Lake Wales Police Department Deputy Chief Troy Schulze said initially there was a “smoke alarm” inside a remote, unpopulated service corridor.
When authorities arrived, “they determined that an IED, or a pipe bomb explosive, had detonated in the corridor,” Schulze said.
Cops soon made the determination that it was not just one pipe bomb that went off, but two.
Then, Schulze said, authorities found a “backpack or book bag that contained five or six other IEDs that were not detonated,” adding that those devices were “safely removed.”
“We had guys go in and do a cursory search to make sure there wasn’t anything else suspicious or out of place,” he said.
Schulze said multiple witnesses told police about a middle-aged man — with a “heavy/stocky build, wearing a gray shirt and gray hat” — seen running from the area.
“If anybody knows or hears anything we hope they would contact us,” he said on Sunday.
It’s unclear if police or the FBI are still in pursuit of this person-of-interest given the new information.
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