2 IEDs explode at Florida mall, police say

Posted at 6:56 AM, Jan 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-22 08:56:59-05

LAKE WALES, Fla. — Police are looking for a man they’re describing as a person of interest after two improvised explosive devices detonated at a Florida mall on Sunday. No one was injured.

At 5:22 p.m. Sunday, officers responded to a smoke alarm call at the Eagle Ridge Mall, in Lake Wales, located in central Florida. They found smoke coming out of a service corridor next to the mall entrance of JCPenney and found two IEDs there.

The devices appeared to be a type of flare, inside a PVC pipe and then wrapped in electric tape, said Lake Wales Police Deputy Chief Troy Schulze. Both devices were in the same hallway, about 10 yards from each other.

“There is nothing at this time to indicate this act was terrorism,” he said. “At this time, we are checking video surveillance cameras.”

When asked why this incident wasn’t being characterized as terror, Schulze said, “We don’t know what the person was trying to achieve.”

Based on descriptions from witnesses, police say they’re looking for a middle-aged white man with a heavy build who was wearing a gray shirt and hat, as a person of interest.

A little more than a 100 people were at the mall when the devices detonated and they safely evacuated.

“It’s very concerning when you think about it,” Schulze told CNN affiliate WFLA, who mentioned that his son was working at that mall. “People here shopping, just enjoying a Sunday evening with their family and literally — boom. That somebody would do that.”

The FBI and ATF have been notified, he said.