Employees, shoppers evacuated after threat called in to 911
© RYAN COOKE
Dozens of shoppers and employees at Truro Mall were treated to a rushed exit on Tuesday afternoon, as firefighters and police officers evacuated the mall following an "unspecified threat" just after 6:30 p.m. Rumours of a bomb threat went from group to group across the parking lot as staff members waited around to return to their stores and restaurants. As of press time, Truro police and firefighters were working on clearing the scene along with a K-9 unit from Halifax.
“It’s a waste of public resources when it’s a hoax,” said Chief Dave MacNeil, regarding the bomb threat that was called in to 911 at around 6:30 p.m. “It’s a stress to the public and it’s an inconvenience to businesses. We don’t take it lightly when we have to shut down a business.
“Our officers in the Criminal Investigation Division will follow up vigorously.”
MacNeil said the threat came in via a call to 911. Along with the police, Truro Fire Service responded to the call, and an explosives K-9 unit from Halifax was brought in.
“The caller said they had taken explosives to the mall and planted them inside the mall,” he said.
Although no explosives were found in the search, the mall had been evacuated and remained closed for the night. MacNeil said police were on scene until about 8:30 p.m.
“These incidents we take very seriously – public safety is paramount. And it’s a real hit to the business community as well. It’s very inconvenient for them. It’s a real issue.”
While Truro Police Service employs its own K-9 unit with Const. Justin Russell and Onyx, explosives isn’t something they are trained to do.
“Most general police dogs aren’t trained for explosives,” explained MacNeil. “Onyx is trained to search for individuals, and is trained in narcotics and aggression.”
Following Tuesday’s incident, the chief said there is no thought about bringing a second K-9 unit on site for similar situations.
“The dog in Halifax is the provincial explosive dog, so we have access to it,” he said.
All entrances and driveways to the mall were blocked off during the incident and those that were told to leave weren’t allowed back in to retrieve any items until the mall was searched.
When firefighters first arrived, they headed inside Jungle Jim’s Eatery to evacuate. Patrons left their food on their plates, and their bills unpaid as they rushed out.
“That’s hundreds of dollars out of our pockets, and another two hours of clean up once this is all over,” said Paul Chisholm, manager of Jungle Jim’s.
Chisholm and his staff waited around the parking lot to re-enter the building, while the scene was cleared.
“A few years ago this was a quick thing,” Chisholm said anxiously. “It was a common occurrence – they’d just walk through the building, clear it and we’d go back in.”
Across the parking lot, Terri Landry waited to return to her job at Sally’s Beauty Supplies.
“I can’t go home,” she said. “I left my keys, my phone, everything in there.”
Landry and a co-worker were notified to leave the store by shoppers on their way out of the mall. Without a P.A. system in the store, they were left in the dark.
It was a different story at Jungle Jim’s, where firefighters came in to drive everybody out.
“They didn’t give us any time or any explanation. Just ‘Everybody out,’” one employee said.