Bomb threat forces Tanger Outlet Center evacuation
A bomb threat was made less than a day before Sundance ended and forced the evacuation of more than 100 people from the stores at the Tanger Outlet Center as Summit County law officers searched for explosives. However, no explosives were found.
At around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, the Park City Police Department dispatch center received a report from an unknown caller that "explosives had been placed in various locations at Tanger and would detonate in 30 minutes," according to a report from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
Wade Carpenter, Park City Police chief, said the threat came through on what sounded like a prerecorded call via Skype.
"It had prompts and it wasn’t a picture, but it was kind of odd because it had written text and the call itself," Carpenter said. "When we would ask specific questions it had prerecorded answers. It was almost like different segments of imposed messages."
Carpenter said the message contained threats against two specific locations, including the Tanger Outlet Center and the police department.
The threats sparked a large-scale response that included members of SWAT and other teams that operate under the auspices of the Sheriff’s Office and police department.
"We relocated our dispatch with Summit County so we didn’t have a break in communication," Carpenter said. "I happened to be pulling into the police station as the call came in so I was able to lead the evacuation. We swept the parking area and there were some concern because we had the brew pub parking lot and during the same time this was going on someone had parked a sprinter van and had left it in our secured area."
Carpenter said the van was cleared with bomb-sniffing dogs and towed to an undisclosed location out of Summit County. He said it was later determined the van belonged to a band that was performing at a nearby venue.
When officers responded to the Outlets after the bomb threat they worked as quickly as possible going door-to-door to ask staff and patrons to leave the area as soon as possible, Sgt. Ron Bridge said, adding that the Sheriff’s Office did not have enough time to set up a staging area. No surrounding businesses were affected and the total evacuation was complete in 15 minutes.
Law officers and two bomb-sniffing dogs conducted a detailed search of the open spaces, businesses, trash cans and office spaces within the Outlet mall. The entire facility was searched within about two hours and cleared.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing and Carpenter said the FBI has been contacted.
"They are working closely with a detective who is following leads and we are currently looking into a couple of tweets that we were able to pick up from someone claiming credit for the threat," Carpenter said. "We are trying to look into those to see if they are legitimate, but we don’t know if it originated from someone locally."
The Sheriff’s Office has not reported to any reports of similar threats within the last several days, however, the police department responded to a threat last week at a Park City-area hotel. Carpenter said an arrest has been made and the events are unrelated.
"The reality is we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best so I felt like we had the resources in place. It was more of an inconvenience than anything, but you always have to take these serious and we have been planning for every contingency we could think," Carpenter said. "We had one the week prior and this was Saturday night, which was one of our biggest events. But we didn’t see anything tied to Sundance other than the threat was during Sundance."
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Summit County officials declared their potential conflicts of interest, with Councilors Doug Clyde and Chris Robinson offering the most extensive lists on the County Council.