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Bomb scare at bank just a bunch of garbage

What looked to bank employees and deputies like a possible bomb was a box of tin cans and an old phone.

By BILL VARIAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001


INVERNESS -- A day after two men robbed the AmSouth Bank near downtown Inverness, employees of another bank across the street got a scare of their own -- a bomb scare, that is.

Law enforcement responded in force to the Bank of Inverness after employees there reported a suspicious package left near the front door. Deputies with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office bomb squad blasted the cardboard box open with a high-powered jolt of water fired from a bomb-diffusing "disrupter."

Inside: rusted tin cans, leaves and an old phone, all headed for the trash.

"If it's a bomb to them, then it's a bomb to us, until we can show otherwise," said Deputy Robby Bell, commander of the bomb squad.

Employees of the bank at 320 U.S. 41 S reported the suspicious box left outside the front door some time after 10 a.m. Thursday. Inverness police responded and found the cardboard box wrapped in electrician's tape and what appeared to be telephone wire, said Inverness Lt. Lee Alexander.

Police summoned the bomb squad. Meantime, they evacuated employees and cleared the parking lot.

Dressed in a 100-pound bomb suit lined with Kevlar, Deputy Dave Vincent, the assistant bomb squad commander, inspected the package: Sealed. Wires. Suspicious enough.

Deputies decided to deploy the disrupter, a device that can send out a pulse of water that travels quicker than electricity and is strong enough to knock a hole in a car door, Bell said.

Around this time an older resident walked up and said the package was his. He walked past police crime scene tape and was briefly detained.

The man told police the package contained garbage. He left the package at the front door of the bank when he went inside to do business. He walked out of the bank to go to the store and forgot the box.

"He said he was just going to throw it in a Dumpster and he just never got around to doing it," said Alexander, who was unable to provide information about the man later Thursday other than to estimate he was in his mid 60s.

Deputies decided to take no chances. The water pulse blasted open the box. Sure enough, there was only garbage inside.

Finding nothing to indicate a bomb was inside, police sent the man on his way.

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