12-06 Bomb-1

Wal-Mart employees stand on the roadway as Palestine Police Officers investigate a bomb threat in the store.

Palestine Police officers were called on Tuesday, when a bomb threat at Wal-Mart, a 24-hour business on South Loop 256, was called in shortly before 4 p.m.

“We're doing a sweep of the store right now,” Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey told the Herald-Press from the scene, shortly after 4 p.m. “We're going to determine if the threat is genuine.”

Inside the store, officers conducted a thorough search for evidence of a bomb, making sure to collect as much information as possible to pass to another agency, if necessary.

Palestine Fire Department and EMS crews remained on stand-by, awaiting word from the PPD. Roughly a half-hour later, at 4:34 p.m., responding officers determined the threat was a hoax. If it were not, PPD officers would have called U.S. Army explosives experts from Fort Hood to take over.

As a precaution, the store evacuated its customers. They were asked to drive off the premises while store staff waited on the roadway until PPD could assess any dangers. The store re-opened for business at about 5 p.m.

This is the second bomb-threat in the city in less than two weeks. By contrast, the community typically experiences only one or two such threats a year.

“False reports can cause panic, encourage copycats, and take resources away from the city,” Assistant Police Chief Gary Rayford said after the first incident on Nov. 25. Even if a hoax, he said, a bomb threat remains a serious offense.

Communicating a false bomb threat in Texas is a class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail. If the threat is made against a public or private school, public transportation, public gas, water, power supply or communications, or any other public service, it is a state jail felony, punishable by jail time of no less than 180 days and no more than two years.

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