A total of 11 Wal-Mart stores across Maine received bomb threats by automated phone calls Saturday night, according to Maine State Police.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said state police are sharing information about the threats with other state and federal agencies after similar calls were made in New York, Idaho, Wyoming and Mississippi.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, operates 4,500 stores across the country.

Wal-Mart stores have been targeted by automated telephone bomb threats in the past but never before in Maine, McCausland said Sunday.

McCausland said none of the telephone threats to Wal-Mart stores in Maine originated in Maine.

He said the calls caused a lot of disruption as local police departments responded to the threats and secured the scenes.

“This was a huge shopping day. This caused huge obstructions and took time away from state and local police when there were far more important things we could be doing on a Thanksgiving Saturday,” McCausland said.

The Wal-Mart stores affected in Maine included those in Scarborough, Falmouth, Windham, Biddeford, Waterville, Skowhegan, Thomaston, Palmyra, Houlton and Calais, and at least some of them were evacuated. All of the stores were open for business Sunday.

In Waterville, the bomb threat call came in via a blocked telephone number, according to the police dispatch log. Police contacted the store manager and took a ride around the perimeter of the store. The building was searched by Wal-Mart staff and police, and the threat was found to be fake.

James Ross, chief deputy at the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department, said the threats were taken seriously.

“We had two deputies respond to Palmyra, and one deputy assisted at Skowhegan,” he said.

On Sunday, shoppers at the Wal-Mart store in Skowhegan said they were aware of the bomb threats made Saturday night, but that wasn’t going to stop them from shopping.

“You can’t let fear keep you home,” Molly Staples of Moscow said as she left the store with her husband and three small children.

Brian Nick, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said Sunday that bomb threats are customary at this time of year.

“We have these kinds of situations. This is not out of the realm of what has happened in past years,” Nick said.

He said dozens of other Wal-Mart stores in the United States received bomb threats in the days leading up to Thanksgiving weekend.

He said stores that receive threats may or may not be evacuated, depending on the situation.

“The store works with law enforcement to take action on a case-by-case basis,” Nick said.

Nick said he did not know whether anyone has been arrested for making the threats.

Doug Harlow of the Morning Sentinel contributed to this report.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: QuimbyBeth

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