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Suspect charged in bomb hoax at Lowe's in Leesburg

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LEESBURG, Fla. - Customers and employees at a Lowe’s in Leesburg were forced to stand outside and wait while a bomb squad inspected four suspicious devices in the parking lot.

Officials said James Hilliard was behind the bomb hoax and is now in jail.

Police said when they asked him what was in the devices, he said it was fuel that would send a rocket into outer space. He also claimed the devices weren’t harmful, but investigators weren’t taking any chances.

Police were called to the store around 9:45 a.m. Saturday when Hilliard was apparently acting suspiciously and was asked to leave the store.

Officers said when they arrived the suspect was applying duct tape to what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail that had a paper fuse coming out from one end and a second device attached to it.

While investigating, police found three more suspicious devices around the Hilliard’s Mercedes sports car.

They said Hilliard made threatening statements and was detained.

Officials evacuated the store and called the Lake County Bomb Squad, who used a robot to blow up the devices.

Police said none of the devices actually contained explosives or hazardous chemicals, but the incident still put residents on edge.

“That’s scary. You wonder what makes people do these crazy things,” said resident Ryan Lane.

The store on U.S. Highway 441 was then searched by an explosive detection K-9 team and other officers, and was determined to be safe.

It was reopened around 1 p.m. when officials determined there was no threat.

“You don’t think this type of thing happens where you live and where you work, it’s crazy,” Lane said.

Hilliard is facing multiple charges.