Outside Target

A SBPD officer exits the Target store following an initial search after a bomb threat was received.

No arrests have been made and there is no new information regarding a bomb threat on Dec. 22 directed at the new Target store that forced an evacuation of the University Mall.

“No developments of note,” South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke wrote in response Monday to a request for any updates on the case. “It does appear that other Target stores received a similar threat.” 

The threat was received at roughly 2:15 p.m. as hundreds of holiday shoppers filled Target and the mall just three days before Christmas. Police closed the store and forced the evacuation of the entire mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.

“It was a threat significant to Target,” South Burlington Police Sgt. Dave MacDonough said in an interview on-scene. “There were others, including the Target in Keene (N.H.), and six other stores across the region.”

Later it was determined that in addition to the South Burlington and Keene stores, a bomb threat was also directed at the Target store in Raleigh, N.C. the same day.

Police have not commented on the specific nature of the threat or provided details on how it was communicated to the store.

Police sent an officer into the Target to do a sweep of the store, then posted three employees outside the doors to prevent anyone from entering.

Inside the mall, shopkeepers pulled down their security gates and locked their registers as hundreds made their way to the exits to the parking lot.

“All they told us was that there was a bomb threat in Target and that they have to close the mall,” said a cashier at the Piercing Pagoda as she hurriedly locked up her wares.

By 2:45 p.m., police raised the evacuation order and allowed shoppers to return to the mall, but Target remained closed.

“Due to the kind of threat that was made, we thought it was best the shut down the mall and do a sweep,” MacDonough explained. “We conducted one search, didn’t find anything, opened the mall back up, did a second sweep, didn’t find anything.”

MacDonough said police also interviewed Target employees.

“None of the employees saw anything suspicious all day, and there was no suspicious activity reported,” he said.

Based on the investigation, MacDonough said the Target was reopened by roughly 3 p.m.

This was the second time in a month that bomb threats affected Vermont in general and South Burlington in particular. On Dec. 13, there was a spate of bomb threats across the country that included several in Vermont. State police received reports of threats from four entities at UVM; the South Burlington Police Department; Garvey Auto in Rutland; the Tarrant Foundation in Winooski; the Ski and Ride School at Sugarbush and West Hill Inn, both in Warren; Century Arms in Fairfax; the Groton Town Hall; and individuals in Middlebury and Montpelier.

The bomb threats were sent by email to the South Burlington Police Department, the University of Vermont, WCAX, and many other places on Dec. 13 but were deemed not credible.

The emails claimed that a bomb would go off in the WCAX building if the company did not pay $20,000 in bitcoin by the end of the day, the news organization reported.

The threats were part of an apparent national hoax that affected dozens of businesses, media companies and institutions. The Cedar Rapids Police Department in Iowa, Oklahoma State Police, the New York Police Department and a subway station in Toronto reported the scam. MSP Fusion, a business based in Boston, also received the threat, according to WCVB. Institutions and companies in New Hampshire received more than 10 threats.

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