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Suspicious package at Bel Air Plaza shopping center found empty, deemed no threat after investigation

Bel Air Police have deployed a robot to investigate a suspicious package in the parking lot of the Bel Air Plaza shopping center on Jan. 28.
Bel Air Police have deployed a robot to investigate a suspicious package in the parking lot of the Bel Air Plaza shopping center on Jan. 28. (James Whitlow)

First the robot rolled over to the suspicious package at the rear of Bel Air Plaza; then a man wearing a bulky explosion-resistant suit checked it; and lastly, a man in a sweater cracked it open. Thankfully, nothing was there.

The Bel Air Police Department on Tuesday investigated a suspicious package found at the rear of the Bel Air Plaza shopping center, at the corner of Routes 1 and 24. The package — a pressure cooker spraypainted red — was positioned in the parking lot away from a dumpster.

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Acting Cpl. J.C. Ganovski, who supervised the scene for the police, said even the possibility of an explosive device is enough to warrant investigation and careful examination.

“The main thing is public safety,” he said. “I am not going to take that bet for me or for anybody else.”

A perimeter was established behind the Bel Air Plaza toward the rear of Target, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page. The bomb robot — controlled from a nearby van — approached the pressure cooker and x-rayed the device. A man wearing a bomb suit also x-rayed it before it was opened around 3:30 p.m.

Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire said that suspicious packages take many forms — if they are in an ill-fitting place, making noise or smoking. The pressure cooker was investigated because it was in the wrong place.

“It is out of place ... why is it spray painted?” Alkire said. “Theses are all red flags to us.”

And while an unattended pressure cooker may not seem like a danger, the Boston marathon bombings were perpetrated with modified, explosive pressure cookers.

Most explosives reports the Office of the State Fire Marshal receives come from families cleaning out their older loved ones’ homes. A surprising number of World War II era munitions and explosives are cleaned out each year, Alkire said.

Harford County itself does not receive a great number of suspicious package reports, Alkire said, but he cautioned people to leave suspicious packages alone and call the authorities if seen.

“If you see something, say something,” Alkire said, “leave it in place and call 911.”

UPDATE: The incident has concluded and the suspicious package (sealed pressure cooker) was found to be empty. Thanks...

Posted by Bel Air Police Department on Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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