By LEE KAHRS
A bomb threat Saturday directed at the new Target store at University Mall closed the store and forced the evacuation of the entire mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.
The threat was received at roughly 2:15 p.m. as hundreds of holiday shoppers filled Target and the mall.
“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.”
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.
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.
In a news release issued after the store reopened, Police Chief Shawn Burke said: “The investigation into the origin of the threats is ongoing.” He added thanks to those affected by the incident “for both their cooperation and patience.”