Walmarts in Maine had to be evacuated Saturday night after a number of automated calls were made warning of the intent to denote bombs inside of the big box stores. Walmart locations in York and Cumberland counties were evacuated after over-the-phone, automated calls were placed threatening imminent explosions.
According to WCVB.com out of Boston, Walmart locations in Biddeford, Scarborough, Wyndham, Palmyra and Houlton all received similar, robo-call type threats. A total of eight Walmarts were called. According to investigators, a male, computerized voice, either pre-recorded or reading from a similar script, warned employees answering the phone that a bomb, hidden inside, was about to be remotely detonated.
Police, fire and bomb squad officials responded, and each store was evacuated for a number of hours. No devices or credible evidence of any bomb was found at any of the Walmarts in Maine.
“The caller sounded male, but like a computer generated voice and stated there was a bomb in the Walmart,” said Houlton police Chief Joe McKenn, according to the Bangor Daily News. “We dispatched fire and police, made contact with Walmart management and swept the building but nothing unusual was found.”
McKenna said some stores, out of caution, decided to remain closed overnight. Store management at a few of the locations continued to search even after police cleared the building and declared the properties safe. Police believe it was all a holiday hoax, meant to disrupt the busy shopping weekend.
“Given that eight other stores were called and the nature of the call, we are pretty confident it was a crank call,” he said. “They all came in about the same time frame.”
According to McKenna, some shoppers were upset, incredulously, that they had to leave. The determined customers wanted to continue their holiday shopping – despite the threats.
“Some people did want to ask questions,” the police chief said. “We did have to tell them to get out and some were upset the store was going to stay closed after the search.”
Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said that the 4,500 stores across the country often receive bomb threats, especially around busy shopping days.
In early November, a Mississippi Walmart was bombed by a man who detonated a homemade device inside his local Walmart as protest against the chain’s decision to pull all products that contain Confederacy symbols.