Authorities focus on pressure cooker

ST. ALBANS TOWN — As of press time this morning, authorities had maneuvered a bomb disposal robot into the Walmart store located here on Route 7–North.

That occurred at about 10:45 a.m. as law enforcement officials were continuing to investigate a bomb threat called into the store just after 8 a.m.

The threatening call was made regarding a potential explosive device in a pressure cooker. When Walmart employees went to look at the shelf where the pressure cookers were for sale, they found a box that had been repackaged improperly, according to St. Albans Police Department Chief Gary Taylor.

“It was taped up and the top of the box was bulging,” Taylor said.

Just under 20 employees were evacuated from Walmart, and Taylor said he was unsure whether any customers were inside at the time. Eight SAPD officers, along with the St. Albans City Fire Department and AmCare Ambulance, responded to the scene to be on standby. Taylor said the SAPD also consulted with Homeland Security, Vermont State Police and the Vermont bomb squad, all of which were on the scene as the Messenger went to press..

Taylor added, “I’ve been in consultation with the city and town managers, [too].”

As law enforcement officials secured the area, the suspicious package was left on the shelf. According to Taylor, it needed to be x-rayed before it was removed. A Loomis armored truck did arrive just after 10 a.m. and a bomb squad truck by 10:30 a.m. The robot was then sent into the Walmart store, the largest such facility in the state.

In the meantime, employees, police and other officials waited outside the store in the parking lot, occasionally receiving coffee deliveries and setting up folding chairs. Traffic was turned away from the driveway and police vehicles filed in and out of the lot. Supply trucks were parked away from the building, and groundskeepers used leaf blowers but only on the grassy areas away from the store.

When asked whether bomb threats were common, Taylor said he had only heard of one other at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) building several years ago, which turned out to be false.

“This happens on a fairly rare [basis],” he said.

Police were not able to say who or where the suspicious call came from.

“Investigators are looking into all the facts surrounding the call – we’re not releasing any information about that at this point,” Taylor said.

When asked if a reported irate customer at the store Tuesday may have anything to do this today’s incident, Taylor did not specify.

“We’ll have to let the investigation play out to see if it is,” he said.

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The Messenger will be following this situation throughout the day. See tomorrow’s edition for more details.