Macon police detonate bag by City Hall

jgaines@macon.comMay 6, 2013 

Police evacuated Macon City Hall for about an hour Monday afternoon and blew up what appeared to be an abandoned suitcase or backpack.

City officers on patrol spotted a black cloth-sided bag next to D.T. Walton Sr. Way, where the sidewalk runs through several bushes, and reported it to the E-911 center, according to a police news release.

The news release calls the item a backpack; Don Druitt, Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency, described it as a small wheeled suitcase.

About 1:45 p.m. police asked everyone to leave City Hall, said Chris Floore, city Public Affairs director. He and several dozen other city staff stood in Rosa Parks Square, across Poplar Street from City Hall. Other city workers moved across First Street or up Walton. Many watched anxiously, while others chatted calmly among themselves.

Druitt said the evacuation call filtered down calmly to his office.

“It just kind of unfolded as people were talking about it,” he said.

Police cars blocked sections of Walton, Poplar and First, surrounded the bag with yellow crime-scene tape and parked a cruiser next to it.

No threat had been called to 911, according to dispatchers. But the police bomb disposal unit arrived to examine the bag.

“We couldn’t completely discount the threat, so we conducted a controlled detonation of the backpack,” bomb squad commander Lt. Wilton Collins said in the news release.

An officer approached in a helmet and protective gear, carrying a small X-ray unit. About 10 minutes later, two similarly clad officers returned to drape an explosive charge over the suitcase.

“Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!” sounded from a loudspeaker on the bomb-unit truck. A minute or so later the charge went off with a pop, then an echoing boom. A puff of thin smoke or dust rose above the bushes.

There was no secondary explosion, which indicates there was no bomb inside.

Shortly afterward police announced the all-clear. Workers went back into City Hall before 3 p.m. while police and other officials examined the remains. When officers had taken the shredded bag to the crime lab for examination, all that remained was a large, black smudge on the sidewalk.

To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.

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