Buchanan bomb threat part of nationwide hoax?

Published 10:53 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
BUCHANAN – A bomb threat at the Harding's grocery store in Buchanan left the community on high alert for most of the morning and afternoon on Monday.
Law enforcement officials think the threat was part of a nationwide hoax, which also hit other grocery stores across the United States.
Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said a call came into the Buchanan store around 10:30 a.m. Monday morning from a man claiming there was a bomb in one of the store aisles.
The man told the Harding's manager that if he called the police, it would go off.
The manager was also informed by the caller to lock the doors and keep all employees inside.
The caller demanded money be wired from the store's Western Union office.
Police say similar incidents occurred Monday in Utah, where two other stores were also called.
Police say they believe these callers may have been successful in receiving money from one of the stores in that state.
On Friday, a store in California was targeted with the same threat, as well as a store in Oregon on Thursday.
Both threats phoned into those stores were traced back to Portugal. Police say the phone calls to the Harding's store were traced from a cell phone in New York, which may have been routed through there, possibly originating from overseas.
The police were informed of the Buchanan incident when a customer who left the store called the police after exiting the building.
Local law enforcement officials, including the FBI, were called in and surrounded the building.
The Harding's store manager stayed on the phone with the caller for nearly two hours.
The caller claimed a bomb would be detonated in the store if the manager did not send the caller money. Police say the store manager was trying to set up a money transfer when the phone line was disconnected on the caller's part. At that time, the store's 17 employees evacuated the building.
"They're pretty shaken up," Bailey said of the employees who were inside. Bailey said they didn't think anyone was even in the store or around it when the threats were made.
Police sent a robot into the store to determine if there was a bomb, but could not find anything. Bailey said the incident may be a hoax, but he did not confirm it.
Other buildings in the shopping plaza were evacuated, as well as homes in the area. Police blocked off the roads until 2:30 p.m.
Authorities believe the Buchanan Harding's may have been targeted because of the Western Union office located inside the store.