Persons of interest seen in surveillance images after Fla. mall “explosives” scare

LAKE WALES, Fla. — Police in Florida are searching for two persons of interest after two flares “disguised” to appear as improvised explosive devices were left in a mall, where they were ignited, causing panic as smoke billowed.

Lake Wales police Deputy Chief Troy Schulze told news outlets Sunday that at 5:22 p.m., the Lake Wales Fire Department received an alarm call at the Eagle Ridge Mall in Lake Wales. While en route to that call, their alarm for smoke was turned into a structure fire call.

When they arrived, they found smoke in the service corridor just outside J.C. Penney. As they went inside, they discovered two devices described in a press release as “flares disguised with electrical tape.” 

“Bomb technicians indicated the devices were not constructed to detonate or explode,” police said in the press release. However, there was ceiling damage that police believe was caused by the same person who left the devices in the mall.

Authorities are searching for a person of interest who witnesses described as a heavy-built, white, middle-aged man wearing a gray shirt and a gray hat, reports CBS affiliate WTSP. Police suspect there is a second person of interest believed to be a middle-aged white man, wearing a dark-colored hat with a jacket and a light-colored shirt.  


Person of interest seen in surveillance image after a fake explosives scare at a Florida Mall

Lake Wales Police

“There is no current indication of any terrorist connection to this crime,” police said.

No one was injured in the incident and the mall reopened Monday. Schulze estimated about 100 people were inside the mall at the time, who were then evacuated, reports WTSP.

“It’s very concerning when you think about it, people here shopping, just enjoying a Sunday afternoon or evening with their family and literally ‘boom,'” Schulze told the station. 

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