As the Wal-Mart in Thomaston was being evacuated because of a telephoned bomb threat Saturday night, hairstylist Barbara Moore was doing laundry in a back room of the store and missed the announcement.

When she emerged at 8 p.m., she found the store eerily empty.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God it is awfully quiet,’ so I called my girlfriend and said, ‘Do you know something I don’t know?'”

Stepping out into the parking lot, she saw a cluster of police officers and firefighters, but no customers.

“It was priceless. … Their mouths dropped,” she recalled Sunday. However, she was put off by their lack of interest in who she was or what she had been doing inside.

“A woman walking out of a Wal-Mart that has been evacuated for at least 20 minutes?” she said. “They didn’t even frisk me.”

Thomaston Police Chief Kevin Haj said Monday he recalls Moore walking out of the store, though by then, police were aware that the computer-generated telephone calls had led to evacuations at 11 Wal-Marts across Maine.

Haj said Moore, who was clearly upset at not being evacuated from the store along with everyone else, needs to take up the issue with the store manager. The manager on duty Saturday night was off Monday evening, an assistant manager said.

In a situation like a bomb threat, the store management conducts the evacuation while police and firefighters wait outside for a bomb-sniffing dog to arrive, Haj said.

Once Maine State Police realized the bomb threats were occurring across the state, they recalled the police dog they had dispatched to Thomaston. Instead, local police, firefighters and store management searched the store, Haj said. The store did not reopen because it was already near its 10 p.m. closing time.

The telephone threat was computer-generated but also very specific, Haj said.

“My guy happened to be in (the station) at the time and picked up the phone. When he tried to ask all the questions that would be appropriate, there was no response to his questions, just a recorded, or computer-generated (voice),” Haj said.

“It was very specific there was a bomb in there, but they didn’t identify themselves. Nobody claimed responsibility,” he said. The call did identify the Wal-Mart by address, noting that the threat was directed at the Wal-Mart at 55 Thomaston Commons Way.

The Wal-Mart in Thomaston has been the target of bomb threats in the past, including about a year ago, Haj said.

Local police passed their information on to the Maine Information and Analysis Center in Augusta, a central clearinghouse for intelligence information that serves as a liaison with federal agencies and those in other states.

Because telephone threats have targeted Wal-Marts across the country, police in Maine are not actively involved in tracking down a suspect, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. Instead, 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.

“There’s no evidence these calls originated here in Maine. They may not have originated from here in this country,” McCausland said.

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.

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


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