Man phones in bomb threat to Safeway
PRESCOTT - For four and a half hours Tuesday, Prescott Police evacuated the Safeway at 1044 Willow Creek Road and adjoining businesses because of a bomb threat.
At 8 a.m., an individual called Safeway management making certain demands, according to Kim Kapin, communications director for the City of Prescott.
"This individual indicated the presence of a bomb in their store and all Safeway employees and adjacent businesses were evacuated," he said.
According to Prescott Deputy Chief Mike Kabbel, the man who called Safeway at 8 a.m. demanded that police wire money to Portugal. If they did not meet his demands, he said he would detonate an explosive device in the store.
"Employees and patrons were evacuated and we asked the community to stay away," Kabbel said. "Our SWAT team searched the area and found nobody."
Police later ascertained that the call to Safeway did not originate in Prescott.
What first added credibility to the suspect's threat was the way he spoke to the Safeway manager on the phone.
"He told him to sit down," Kabbel said. "This led to the police thinking that the man was inside the store monitoring the cameras."
Then the suspect made statements such as "keep your hands up," but no one had their hands up. This lessened the credence of his statements, according to Kabbel.
"They made a sweep of the building and determined no one was there within minutes," he said.
The DPS bomb squad went into Safeway after noon along with their management team to look for suspicious packages.
"The employees and management work there, so who better to determine if there are any suspicious packages," he said.
Authorities notified Prescott Unified School District officials to prevent students from approaching the area, but two waves of approximately 50 to 70 students appeared walking to local restaurants for lunch. Police kept them across the street from the Safeway parking lot.
Kapin said that there have been similar incidents throughout the country.
"We are working with federal authorities to determine if there is a connection," he said.
Kabbel said Prescott Police are in the beginning stages of the investigation.
"We will forward our information to the FBI," he said. "They may be able to tie this with other incidents that have happened in the last year all over the country."
According to Debra McCarley, special agent for the FBI, the bomb threat did occur.
The businesses affected shared a common wall with Safeway. They include Toasties, Barbudos Burrito Co., Beijing Garden, The UPS Store, V&B Nails and Jacob's Well. Businesses to the north of Safeway, including Kmart, remained opened throughout the situation.
At approximately 12:35 p.m., the stores in the shopping center reopened for business.