(LAKE WALES, Fla.) — An improvised explosive device detonated in the corridor of a mall in Lake Wales, Florida, Sunday evening, authorities said.
A drop ceiling was damaged as well as structural damage to the corridor wall of the Eagle Ridge Mall.
No injuries were reported and the mall was quickly evacuated and a perimeter set up, the police said.
Emergency personnel from surrounding counties, including the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad and the Lake Wales Fire Department, responded to the mall at around 5:30 p.m. to what Schulze said was initially a response to a “smoke alarm” alerting inside a remote, unpopulated service corridor JCPenney department store in the mall.
As they approached the mall’s blast site, Lake Wales Police Department Deputy Chief Troy Schulze told ABC News Radio, the situation upgraded to a “structural fire.”
And when authorities arrived on scene, Schulze said: “They determined that an IED, or a pipe bomb explosive, had detonated in the corridor.”
Then the bomb squad made another disturbing find.
Schulze said as they canvassed the area where the smoke receded and flames were being put out, authorities found a “backpack or book bag that contained five or six other IEDs that were not detonated,” adding the 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.
Investigators are now turning their attention to track down a man they believe to be a “person-of-interest.”
Schulze said multiple witnesses told police about a middle-aged man with a “heavy/stocky build, wearing a grey shirt and grey hat.”
The pursuit of this person-of-interest remains active as Schulze said investigators attempt to get a hold of video footage.
“If anybody knows or hears anything we hope they would contact us,” he said.
The explosion, however lethal, struck an area where Schulze said “there are no shoppers,” and was restricted to the service corridor, which helped spare bloodshed.
“It could have been a lot more dangerous,” he said.
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